Proctoring software creates concern to student privacy

By Juan Calvillo

Proctoring software installed on a student’s computer is entirely invasive and doesn’t help build an important part of student-teacher relationships, trust.
The Los Angeles Community College District provides professors with a proctoring software called “Proctorio” that can be used for testing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a convening of the Academic Senate, Jeff Hernandez, Academic Senate president, brought the use of “Proctorio” after a small number of students had been concerned with possible privacy issues that came along with the use of the software.
“We ended up settling on referring it to our committee on academic freedom and ethics. They spent quite a bit of time coming up with the recommendation that was voted on in the senate,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said that the recommendation was not to use “Proctorio.” This concern with privacy is just the tip of the iceberg that comes along with the use of monitoring software like “Proctorio.” If students’ concerns are loud enough for the Academic Senate to have a voted recommendation be made then it is a concern worth taking into consideration.
Cameras are already in almost all electronic devices. Cell phones, laptops, tablets and even watches have cameras.
All it would take is time and effort for someone to use these cameras against their owners. NordVPN, a company that creates virtual private networks that improve online security for users, said on its website that
“All webcam hackers need to do to hijack your webcam is to slip remote-control malware into your laptop (this also gives them access to your personal files, messages, and browsing history).”
Now it can be argued that proctoring software asks for permission to use the camera, but once access is given, what stops anyone from using the camera for their own purposes?
This concern can be seen as far-fetched, but as recently as September 28, Washington State University announced that its proctoring software, ProctorU, had a recent data breach. Proctoring types of software use facial recognition and body language as a means to determine if cheating is occurring. Having stored this type of information anywhere is dangerous, but being hacked and having this information stolen can become a nightmare.
ELAC has professors who use “Proctorio” in their classes for tests or quizzes. Frank Aguirre, professor in the Business Department, said that he tells his students that proctoring software will be used in his classes and has it written in his syllabus. It’s an upfront issue he addresses with his class.
“My goal is to preserve the integrity of the earned grade. I want to discourage cheating. Proctorio as a proctoring service seemed to have the best support for students, twenty four-seven, and tools, proctoring features, for the instructor,” Aguirre said.
I have known Aguirre for close to two years, and I have come to respect his perspective and more importantly know that he is a fair professor. Yet when he informed a class that I was taking this spring, that he planned on using “Proctorio,” I was taken aback. There was a gut feeling of guilt before even taking the test.
Despite that feeling, I quickly inferred why the software was being used. Aguirre explained in more detail why the software was being used and that gave the class a sense of why. Yet students in similar situations with other instructors, those just starting to get to know any professor, might not have had the same reaction.
Being accused of something a student has yet to do can break the little trust being built with a professor. That may sound a bit old fashioned, but a relationship between a professor and student is hard to maintain.
Proctoring software is not going to disappear while there is a pandemic going on, but its use can be shocking to some students. It’s the best option, but it is a necessary tool that’s used for now.

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