In a letter sent to UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang and Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall on March 13, the UCSB Faculty Association urged the university to “rescind its contract” with ProctorU, a digital proctoring service that the association’s letter says “implicates the university into becoming a surveillance tool.”
ProctorU is an online exam proctoring service that accesses a student’s webcam and microphone in order to provide a “powerful, convenient, secure and cost-effective alternative to traditional test centers,” its website says. With the announcement that UCSB’s Spring Quarter 2020 will be held entirely online in order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, UCSB faculty is now in the process of transitioning to remote instruction services, one of which is ProctorU.
According to the letter, ProctorU’s policy allows for the distribution of student information to third parties; the letter states that ProctorU “regularly collects and distributes” a wide range of student information such as social security numbers, browsing history, gender identity, medical conditions and more.
The student information ProctorU collects and releases to third parties also includes fingerprints, faceprints, voiceprints and retina scans, according to the UCSB Faculty Association Board.
The full data that may be collected by ProctorU can be viewed here.
“We write to call attention to these issues and urge UCSB to rescind its contract with ProctorU and issue a statement discouraging faculty to use this service or any other private service that either sells or makes students’ data available to third parties,” the board said in the letter.
The letter also requests that UCSB “adopt a policy of refusal when it comes to using ProctorU and that professors who were planning to use it be given an extension to adapt their exams to another format.”
The UCSB Faculty Association letter states that ProctorU’s terms and conditions may significantly impact undocumented students, whose information, “including that related to citizenship,” may be disclosed to ProctorU and third parties.
“Our students do not have a choice but to submit to these violations if a professor is utilizing ProctorU as part of their class,” the letter read. The board added that this program “also mines the data of our students, making them available to unspecified third parties, and therefore violates our students’ rights to privacy.”
The Faculty Association said in the letter that it recognized that during this unexpected transition to remote instruction, some sacrifices would have to be made in the “justified rush to serve our student population during this unprecedented crisis.” However, the board said in its letter, it believes UCSB students’ right to privacy cannot be one of them.
“We are not willing to sacrifice the privacy and digital rights of our students for the expediency of a take home final exam.”
Correction [3/18/2020 12:46 p.m.]: This article has been corrected to further clarify ProctorU’s policy about distributing information.