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College’s exam-proctoring software used to ‘scan’ rooms for breach of privacy rights, judge finds | Rare Techy

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A college violated a student’s privacy rights when it used a student’s webcam to scan the room around him during remote exams.

That was the ruling by a federal judge in Ohio this week, which found that a feature of remote-proctoring services caught on during the pandemic—constitutes an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.

The case involved a student at Cleveland State University, whose professor asked students to allow the college’s HonorLock software to take pictures of their surroundings to ensure they were free of study materials. One of the students, Aaron Ogletree, filed suit, arguing that his personal records—including tax forms he didn’t have time to remove before the exam—were visible and that the scan was essentially an unreasonable search.

The university argued in court proceedings that no other students had complained, that the student could have chosen another area to take the test that did not contain personal information, and that many other colleges had used the same approach during the epidemic to online education. .

This is the first time such a verdict has been passed in the country.

“Mr. Ogletree’s privacy outweighs the interests of the State of Cleveland in scanning his room in his home,” the judge found.

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons or property.

It’s the latest in what’s likely to remain a contentious area of ​​edtech, as colleges struggle to maintain academic standards by preventing cheating while balancing student privacy rights. “Ensuring academic integrity is essential to our mission and will guide us as we move forward,” a spokesperson for Cleveland State said in a statement, noting that the university would not comment further on the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, there has been a lot of pushback against remote proctoring, including other lawsuits and petition campaigns that have garnered tens of thousands of signatures. However, more and more colleges seem to be purchasing licenses for the software, leaving it up to individual professors to choose whether to use the tool.

The ruling applies only to state universities and may limit its application to other situations as the student in this case was sick and could not take the alternative option of sitting for the exam in person, legal experts cited. Chronicle of Higher Education.

The university has yet to say whether it will appeal the decision.

Correction and clarification: This article initially misstated the scope of the court ruling.

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