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Equity in Civic Technology, Privacy & Data

CDT Joins Fight for the Future, Other Civil Rights & Youth Advocacy Orgs in Calling on Schools to Ban Eproctoring Programs

The Center for Democracy & Technology is joining Fight for the Future and 17 other human rights, civil liberties, and youth advocacy organizations in calling on school administrators to ban eproctoring apps in advance of this coming school year.

The letter details serious concerns about eproctoring, including its invasive data collection, risk for academic harm, inefficacy at preventing academic dishonesty, and the potential to perpetuate racism and ableism.

CDT’s Lydia X. Z. Brown has previously detailed how automated Test proctoring software discriminates against disabled students. The letter is pasted below, and it can also be found here.

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We, the undersigned, are calling for a ban on the use of eproctoring programs in K-12 schools and higher education.

Eproctoring programs are invasive, dangerous, and fail to prevent academic dishonesty. They demonstrate systemic bias against non-white students, are harmful for students with testing anxiety, and discriminate against students with disabilities. They also treat students as if they are guilty until proven innocent, which is a disrespectful and harmful stance for any academic institution to take.

Eproctoring programs that include facial detection, recognition, or monitoring are notoriously unable to identify students of color, particularly Black students. A federally-funded study found that even the best facial recognition algorithms fail to work on Black and brown people, trans and non-binary people, as well as children and women in general. As a workaround, there have been numerous accounts of students of color being forced to shine lights directly in their faces in order to be recognized by the software, which undoubtedly impacts testing performance.

Many online proctoring programs record students and their rooms through webcams. This surveillance is not only invasive, but flags even mundane actions as potential cheating, like if a student reads a question out loud (a common testing strategy for people who learn differently). Eye tracking may flag “too much movement” compared to a baseless expectation by the algorithm. This is harmful because frequent eye movement can easily be attributed to medical conditions, anxiety, learning differences, and/or neurodivergences like ADHD or autism.

Even eproctoring solutions that do not use a video component force students to surrender an unacceptable amount of control over their devices to a third party company—including browser histories, keystroke tracking, and the ability to change privacy settings. The databases these companies accrue on students have already been hacked and remain vulnerable.

Eproctoring companies are facing numerous lawsuits for compromising user data and misleading students about data collection practices, especially biometric data collection like face, voice, and fingerprints. Some students are suing their academic institutions for forcing them to use what amounts to glorified spyware in order to complete their classes.

For the equity and privacy of all students, school administrators must ban the use of eprocotoring.

Read the open letter here.

Read the press release, including a full list of signatories, here.