As a privacy-minded computer science student preparing to start his first year at Miami University, Erik Johnson was concerned this fall when he learned that two of his professors would require him to use the digital proctoring software Proctorio for their classes. The software turns students’ computers into powerful invigilators—webcams monitor eye and head movements, microphones record noise in the room, and algorithms log how often a test taker moves their mouse, scrolls up and down on a page, and pushes keys. The software flags any behavior its algorithm deems suspicious for later viewing by the class instructor.
In the end, Johnson never had to use Proctorio. Not long after he began airing his concerns on Twitter and posted a simple analysis of the software’s code on Pastebin, he discovered that his IP address was banned from accessing the company’s services. He also received a direct message from Proctorio’s CEO, Mike Olsen, who demanded that he take the Pastebin posts down, according to a copy of the message Johnson shared with Motherboard. Johnson refused to do so, and is now waiting to see if Proctorio will follow up with more concrete legal action, as it has done to other critics in recent weeks.
“If my professors weren’t flexible, I’d be completely unable to take exams,” Johnson said. “It’s insane to think that a company [or] CEO can affect my academic career just for raising concerns.”