Warwick Business School scraps ‘discriminatory and ableist’ exam surveillance software

The ‘software was built with accessibility in mind from day one’, Proctorio says

Warwick Business School has cancelled its trial of an exam surveillance software following a petition that deemed it “discriminatory and ableist”.

A spokesperson for WBS said “We have listened carefully to that feedback and have decided to pause the trial, so will not be using Proctorio for the upcoming exam period.”

Proctorio were also quick to respond to the open letter, saying that the “software was built with accessibility in mind from day one”.

The software has come under fire after the petition, signed by more than 500 students, raised allegations that it scans users’ rooms, monitors their keystrokes and invades student privacy by going through the device’s search history, cookies and browser settings, much of which the software company has refuted.

Many other universities have trialled the software previously but rejected further use following student outcry, such as the Universities of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of British Colombia and the University of Miami.

The petition asked that the software would be banned from the entire university

Allegations also suggest the software flags students “who look away from their laptops more- likely to be those with ADHD-like symptoms” and “fails to recognise darker faces, forcing the companies to ask student with darker skin tones to use more light”.

These claims were made in a petition created two weeks ago, after a group of students at WBS received a message stating that their course had been selected to trial Proctorio. The petition calls for Warwick to ban the software as it “invades student rights, is inherently ableist and discriminatory, and goes against peer received research about memory and recollection”.

The petition also alleges that trialling Proctorio would impact students’ mental health, by putting “undue stress on students during already difficult times by magnifying the anxiety surrounding online learning”, which particularly affects students with pre-existing mental health concerns.

Warwick Business School gave the following statement in response, deciding to pause the trial and not be use the software in the upcoming exam period:

“We understand this is a challenging time for students, having to cope with studying in a national lockdown. But we also have a duty to ensure the academic integrity of our assessments as best as possible while these exams are carried out online.

“Thus, Warwick Business School (WBS) has been undertaking a pilot remote exam proctoring trial using the Proctorio system. The University’s approach to utilising proctoring software has been subject to discussion at the University’s Academic Integrity Group, and Academic Quality & Standards Committee, which have student representatives sitting on them. In addition we have already gained useful feedback from WBS staff and students on their experience to date.

“We have listened carefully to that feedback and have decided to pause the trial, so will not be using Proctorio for the upcoming exam period.  We continue to believe that proctoring is one way that the academic integrity of our assessments can be upheld as it is already in use by other institutions and professional bodies, but we are keen to listen to our students and work with them to investigate the issues raised and respond to concerns.

“It is vital that our students have confidence in the integrity of our examination process when doing online exams, especially as we believe these will become more commonplace in the future. We will continue to work with students on finding the right mechanisms to ensure online exams are conducted in a fair and rigorous environment.”

A spokesperson for Proctorio gave the following statement:

“We understand that a course at Warwick Business School was selected for a trial of Proctorio. We are open to criticism of our software and agree that all learners should be savvy about the technology used by their institutions.

“If students at the university would like to have further discussion around concerns in the petition, we are happy to work with the institution and the student government to set up a town hall or meeting to further address.”

In response to the allegations made by the petition, Proctorio said:

“Proctorio’s software was built with accessibility in mind from day one. Additional details about our approach to accessibility is available here. Additionally, self-identifying as a student with a disability is critically important.

“Proctorio is committed to building technology that not only recognizes, but deeply respects the diverse student populations at partner institutions. Proctorio takes this commitment seriously and has partnered with an ethical AI research consultancy, BABL AI.

“Proctorio never requires additional personally identifiable information (PII) beyond what is already collected by the LMS or assessment platform to use our software or access support. More information about our approach to data privacy is available here.

“Proctorio does not monitor keystrokes or collect any biometric data at any time. Proctorio does not use facial recognition or any other form of biometric analysis (voice recognition, keystroke fingerprinting, etc.). We use face detection. This means that our technology can identify that there is a human face present in an image of video, but it cannot identify that person.

“We would like to clarify that Proctorio only monitors web traffic during an exam period and does not access your browser history or cookies. Additional information about Proctorio’s browser permissions is available here.”

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