On December 3rd, six U.S. against five proctoring companies, arguing that they illegally collect students’ personal data. senators sent letters to Proctorio, ProctorU, and ExamSoft, requesting information about « the steps that your company has taken to protect the civil rights of students, » and proof that their programs securely guard the data they collect, « such as images of [a student’s] home, photos of their identification, and personal information regarding their disabilities. » (Proctorio wrote a long letter in response, defending its practices.) On December 9th, the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center submitted a complaint to the attorney general of D.C.
More recently, several students in Illinois have sued their institutions for using the software, alleging that it violates their rights under a state law that protects the privacy of residents’ biometric data. The first time Yemi-Ese opened the application, positioning himself in front of his laptop for a photo, to confirm that his Webcam was working, Proctorio claimed that it could not detect a face in the image, and refused to let him into his exam.
Yemi-Ese turned on more lights and tilted his camera to catch his face at its most illuminated angle; it took several tries before the software approved him to begin. « Being in sports for as long as I was, and getting yelled at by coaches, I don’t get stressed much, » he said. A former Division 1 football player, majoring in kinesiology, Yemi-Ese had never suffered from anxiety during tests. He was initially unconcerned when he learned that several of his classes, including a course in life-span development and another in exercise physiology, would be administering exams using Proctorio, a software program that monitors test-takers for possible signs of cheating.
When the coronavirus pandemic began, Femi Yemi-Ese, then a junior at the University of Texas at Austin, began attending class and taking exams remotely, from the apartment that he shared with roommates in the city. Adding sources of light seems to help, but it comes with consequences. Despite these preparations, « I know that I’m going to have to try a couple times before the camera recognizes me, » he said. When we first spoke, last November, he told me that, in seven exams he’d taken using Proctorio, he had never once been let into a test on his first attempt.
« I have a light beaming into my eyes for the entire exam, » he said. Now, whenever he sits down to take an exam using Proctorio, he turns on every light in his bedroom, and positions a ring light behind his computer so that it shines directly into his eyes. « That’s hard when you’re actively trying not to look away, which could make it look like you’re cheating. » Like many test-takers of color, Yemi-Ese, who is Black, has spent the past three semesters using software that reliably struggles to locate his face.