Exam plan sparks privacy concerns

Student Hollie Hammond holds concerns over her privacy. Photo: Megan Dunn.
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A program aimed at alleviating cheating in online exams has been red flagged by students at Western Sydney University (WSU), with some calling it “an outright invasion of privacy”.

With COVID-19 impacting students’ ability to take in-house exams, WSU has resorted to the program, ProctorU, which uses keystrokes and webcams to record, monitor and live stream students’ movements from their devices at home.

The platform uses artificial intelligence like facial detection technology to verify the user’s identity and report any suspicious activity.

Those with concerns have flocked to sign a petition against the program, which has garnered just shy of 6000 digital signatures.

Penrith resident and Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) student Hollie Hammond is one of many with concerns.

She said whilst she loves the university, its values and the opportunities that have come from it, she feels uneasy about the terms and conditions of ProctorU.

“The use of ProctorU was announced with so little time, students have reported signing up when they didn’t want to, as they feared for their grades if they didn’t,” she said.

“No one wants to be in a position where they feel they either waste a semester of work if they don’t agree to ProctorU, or they sign up feeling deeply uncomfortable and uninformed about the details of their privacy.”

South Penrith resident and WSU student, Alison Lucantonio, lives with a chronic illness and is concerned about the terms of the program, which state they must remain in camera view at all times.

“The expectation to look straight ahead, show my space and not use the bathroom is a major issue for my health and could physically harm me dramatically,” she said.

“I shouldn’t have to choose between my degree or my health and privacy.”

A WSU spokesperson said the program is needed during these unprecedented times to maintain academic integrity.

“WSU takes privacy very seriously and is committed to safeguarding student data at all times,” the spokesperson said.

“The university maintains ownership of all data and records, which are deleted following the examination period.”

The spokesperson said the program had been used for WSU Online course units since 2017.

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