More recently, several students in Illinois have sued their institutions for using the software, alleging that it violates their rights under a state law that protects the privacy of residents’ biometric data. against five proctoring companies, arguing that they illegally collect students’ personal data. senators sent letters to Proctorio, ProctorU, and ExamSoft, requesting information about "the steps that your company has taken to protect the civil rights of students," and proof that their programs securely guard the data they collect, "such as images of [a student’s] home, photos of their identification, and personal information regarding their disabilities." (Proctorio wrote a long letter in response, defending its practices.) On December 9th, the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center submitted a complaint to the attorney general of D.C.

On December 3rd, six U.S. But some universities "have signed multi-year contracts that opened the door to proctoring in a way that they won’t just be able to pull themselves out of," Jesse Stommel, a researcher who studies education technology and the editor of the journal Hybrid Pedagogy, said. Several institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, McGill, and the University of California, Berkeley, have either banned proctoring technology or strongly discouraged its use. (Harvard urged faculty to move toward open-book exams during the pandemic; if professors felt the need to monitor students, the university suggested observing them in Zoom breakout rooms.) Since last summer, several prominent universities that had signed contracts with Proctorio, including the University of Washington and Baylor University, have announced decisions either to cancel or not to renew those contracts.

Meanwhile, rising vaccination rates and schools’ plans to reopen in the fall might seem to obviate the need for proctoring software. "They have committed to paying for these services for a long time, and, once you’ve made a decision like that, you rationalize using the software." (Several universities previously listed as customers on Proctorio’s Web site told me that they planned to reassess their use of proctoring software, but none had made determinations to end their contracts.) Meanwhile, Proctorio is also monitoring the room around you for unauthorized faces or forbidden materials.

Proctorio, which operates as a browser plug-in, can detect whether your gaze is pointed at the camera; it tracks how often you look away from the screen, how much you type, test and how often you move the mouse. At the end of the exam, the professor receives a report on each student’s over-all "suspicion score," along with a list of moments, marked for an instructor to review, when the software judged that cheating might have occurred. It compares your rate of activity to a class average that the software calculates as the exam unfolds, flagging you if you deviate too much from the norm.

Jarrod Morgan, the chief strategy officer of ProctorU, told me that his company was in need of "relational" rather than technical changes. of ExamSoft, denied that his company’s product performed poorly with dark-skinned people. Sebastian Vos, the C.E.O. "A lot of times, there are issues that get publicly printed that are not actually issues," he said.