Privacy backlash over online exams

COVID-19 has forced universities to move their classes online. Image: David Blayney.

More than 1,180 students have petitioned the University of Western Australia to scrap plans to move their exams online, citing concerns over students’ privacy and security.

UWA will use Examplify and ProctorU to invigilate exams done remotely. The software continuously records a student’s face and computer screen and collects biometric information and keystrokes.

ProctorU’s privacy policy states that it will keep users’ personal information on servers in the United States “for as long as necessary” and allows the company to sell users’ personal information if the company is acquired or liquidated.

The online petition says Examplify modifies students’ computer system files and may require students to disable software which protects their computers from viruses and malware.

UWA’s Vice Chancellery has emailed its students, saying it’s noted privacy concerns from students and is investigating them.

“We are currently looking into this and will provide further updates shortly. UWA will always adhere to the responsible and legal management of personal information and will uphold the strictest privacy obligations to students, staff and other members of the University community,” the email says.

What’s it like doing an exam over the internet? Monash graduate Claudia shares her experience of using LockDown, a competing system.

UWA Student Guild President Bre Shanahan says students have also raised concerns over matters such as whether they can take bathroom breaks, or whether they have an environment in which they can complete the exam.

“The Guild has passed all of these concerns onto the university. We are advocating for the university to allow students to opt-out of this examination format should they have data privacy or other concerns that make them uncomfortable with using ExamSoft,” she says.

“Where possible, alternative methods of examination should be used.”

Curtin University says it will replace exams with other types of assessments, but some units will have online exams due to accreditation requirements.

Curtin uses software called IRIS, and recordings are stored on a Curtin server for approximately seven years before being destroyed.

Categories: COVID-19, Education

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