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Privacy in COVID-19 Exam Periods 

Claire Taylor                                                                                                                                           15 May 2020

University exams bring significant stress every semester. With the late-night study sessions and memorizing of notes, this period is always a highly tense couple of weeks. But like everything else in 2020, university study and university exams have had to adapt to the unprecedented pandemic environment. All universities have transitioned to learning online but the process of the end of semester exams has raised significant concerns from universities.

Some universities including the Australian National University (ANU) and University of Queensland (UQ) have organised exams to be facilitated by software which is being referred to as spyware and raising concerns for students and their privacy. This programs are known as ProctorU and Protorio, which have access to a student’s camera, microphone and keystrokes to detect cheating during the course of an exam through artificial intelligence. 



Students of these universities have been very vocal in their opposition to the use of these programs including concerns for security, privacy, and false detections. In response to the introduction of these policies, over 4,000 students at ANU signed an online petition opposing the use of this during exams. UQ followed a similar approach with almost 7,000 signatures.

Mobirise

The shared concern of the students is about the invasion of privacy and control over personal data, and while ProctorU has stated that the students’ data will not be sold onto third parties, should the company be ‘involved in a bankruptcy, merger, acquisition, reorganisation, or sale of assets’, the data may be purchased or transferred.

When considering that the universities employing such software appear to be in the minority, with other universities finding alternatives that do not impede on privacy in such a dramatic way it brings into question why this is being pursued further. The risk to students’ privacy and unfair outcomes is unnecessary as other universities are employing COVID-19-friendly exam conditions without similar concerns. 

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