Over 800 students have signed a petition asking the Vancouver School of Economics (VSE) to stop using the Proctorio remote exam invigilation service.
The petition notes that Proctorio has extensive access to student data while active, including a student’s location, browser and physical surroundings. The petition also raises concerns over the Proctorio CEO’s publication of private student chat logs and the company’s lawsuit against a UBC staff member, ultimately accusing Proctorio of being invasive and unsafe for student use.
Petition author Sophia Cherkashyn, a first-year commerce student, explained that the degree of access Proctorio has to students’ personal information came as a surprise to her and her fellow students.
“The day we had to do [a testing quiz] everyone in the group chat was … suspicious and creeped out by this whole thing,” Cherkashyn said. “I realized that people actually do really care about this. They were just nervous to speak up earlier … we can’t just let this go on as it is.”
She said that she started the petition to show her professor that students found the use of Proctorio worrying, but soon discovered her concerns were more common than she expected. After the petition was published, Cherkashyn said that she began to receive personal messages from students thanking her for raising the issue.
“We aren’t wanting to remove Proctorio so we can cheat easier,” said Cherkashyn. “That’s not the intention of this at all. We just don’t want all of our data to be exposed to such a shady company.”
Proctorio disputed the petition’s allegations of privacy invasion in a statement to The Ubyssey.
“Proctorio has no access to student information, period,” a spokesperson said. “Proctorio retains exam data only for as long as is required by law, or required by the institution.” The statement added that Proctorio does not track applications or student locations, and that Proctorio only accessed the UBC student’s chat log after it was made public on Reddit.
Ryan Wong, AMS representative of the Vancouver School of Economics Undergraduate Society, firmly backed the petition.“I think that students are sending a very clear message to the VSE that continuing to work with this platform is unacceptable … this [is] a university-wide issue,” he said.
In addition to privacy concerns, Wong said that Proctorio may pose problems for students with weak internet connections or are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
“Algorithm test proctoring like Proctorio has been proven to discriminate against Black, Indigenous and people of colour, students with accessibility needs and medical conditions … students shouldn’t have to worry about being discriminated against, in addition to studying for these very difficult exams.”
Facial recognition software has been shown to falsely flag people of colour at higher rates than their white counterparts. A spokesperson for Proctorio said the company is committed to diversity and that Proctorio provides live support to students who fail facial detection on exam entry after multiple attempts.
Proctorio said in a subsequent email that its software is distinct from facial recognition software, which seeks to identify individuals. Spokesperson John Devoy said Proctorio uses facial detection to determine whether a student is facing the webcam.
VSE Director Patrick Francois did not say whether the school would stop using the service in light of the petition.
“Remote exam invigilation poses logistical challenges, particularly for introductory economics courses that see several hundred students enrolled,” said Francois in a statement to The Ubyssey. “We are currently in the process of exploring all options for faculty members, including Zoom invigilation when feasible, as they decide on the best virtual proctoring methods for their students and classes.”
Both Cherkashyn and Wong expressed a hope that the VSE will listen to student concerns and consider other options for remote exam invigilation.
“It would probably be pretty easy for them to just not reply to my email and brush it off and brush it under the rug,” Cherkashyn said. “But I really hope that they take time to put themselves in our shoes and see what we are experiencing.”
This article was updated to clarify that Proctorio said it uses facial detection, not facial recognition software.