The University of Austin in the US state of Texas made extensive use of the Proctorio software package in the 2020/21 academic year, which uses artificial intelligence to detect attempts to deceive online exams. After complaints from student groups, the university convened a committee to assess the situation. After consulting with students and faculty, this committee is now advising against the use of such software, reports The Register magazine.
Wrong conclusions and psychological pressure
The committee leads as the most important argument in a report assume that the algorithms of the program could come to false evaluations through random external signals or through unnoticed prejudices, writes The Register. For example, the software could derive conclusions from a test participant’s movement analysis, which also depend on his skin color. In addition, hectic eye movements by candidates with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) would easily be interpreted as suspicion of deception. On the other hand, there is considerable psychological pressure to which the test candidates are exposed as a result of the surveillance.
During the observation period, according to the Austin Committee, after monitoring several thousand tests, the software generated 27 alarms, 13 of which were followed up. In the opinion of the consultants, this is not enough to justify the psychological and financial burdens caused by the Proctorio software.
As an alternative, the report gives some recommendations for protection against deception, such as simple video surveillance using zoom or the abandonment of large and momentous tests in favor of numerous smaller tests, each of which is less important.
Criticism also from Germany
Massive criticism of digital inspection supervision has also been leveled in Germany. The opponents, the IT security expert Mike Kuketz, mainly cited technical aspects. It is about, for example, that the software used works in a gray area of data protection law at best and that “spyware against students” (IT report by the GFF, PDF file) represent. Program packages such as Proctorio, ProctorExam, Test Reach, Smowl, Manage Exam or WiseFlow could finally read browser histories, monitor the completion of forms and thus also have the potential to compromise passwords.