Automated online proctoring of exams in the U.S. has exploded in popularity during the pandemic. Usage of remote proctors has jumped by 500% in the past two years alone, and over half of American higher education institutions are using them.
For the most part, students are required to submit to online proctoring. One study found that 97% of students whose tests were proctored by a computer program had no choice but to use the program.
Unfortunately, there have been serious problems with automated proctoring. For one thing, online proctoring programs collect a lot of sensitive personal data – much more than is necessary to operate the proctoring service. This personal data is often sold to third parties, including law enforcement, immigration enforcement and third-party marketing companies. The proctoring companies currently keep the data for as long as they like.
For another, test takers are routinely asked to give online proctors administrative rights to their computers. If the data were breached, it would create a dangerous security vulnerability. And, there have already been breaches.
Furthermore, some online proctoring programs are not effective. For example, one proctoring company flagged over a third of California Bar examinees as cheating, which is absurd. Others inaccurately flag people with disabilities as cheating far more often than their peers, and some programs fail to accurately recognize Black and Brown faces.
Some students who have been affected by online proctoring abuses have tried to sue under California’s Consumer Privacy Act to protect their data. Unfortunately, the proctoring companies have insisted that the test administrator or school, not the student, is the owner of the data, so the Consumer Privacy Act hasn’t been effective.
Student Test Taker Privacy Protection Act (STTPPA) could rein in proctoring companies
A new bill sponsored by privacy rights groups would limit data collection by online proctors to just what is needed to actually proctor the test. It would require even that data to be kept as private as possible and to be deleted within a reasonable time. It would give test takers the right to protect their data and privacy by suing proctoring companies that don’t use reasonable data minimization practices.
The Student Test Taker Privacy Protection Act, or STTPPA would also require more transparency by proctoring companies on what data they collect and use, which could improve the security of that data. Moreover, it would allow the state to monitor how effective the software is at identifying students, administering exams properly and flagging possible exam misbehavior.
Do you think the STTPPA would do enough to protect students’ privacy?
Leigh Law Group represents students in privacy lawsuits throughout California.