On Friday, digital rights group Fight for the Future unveiled an open letter signed by 2,000 parents calling on McGraw-Hill Publishing to end its relationship with Proctorio, one of many proctoring apps that offers services that digital rights groups have called “indistinguishable from spyware.”
As the pandemic has pushed schooling into virtual classrooms, a host of software vendors have stepped up to offer their latest surveillance tools. Some, like Proctorio, offer technologies that claim to fight cheating by tracking head and eye movements, without any evidence that their algorithms do anything but make students anxious (and thus perform worse). Others rely on facial recognition technology, which is itself rife with racial bias, and have regularly failed to verify the identities of students of color at various points while taking state bar exams, forcing the test to end.
Proctorio is one of a few companies that has come under scrutiny from privacy groups not only for invasive surveillance, but exhaustive data extraction that collects sensitive student data including biometrics. The company is perhaps unique in its attempts to silence critics of its surveillance programs. Proctorio has deployed lawsuits to silence critics, forcing one University of British Columbia learning technology specialist to exhaust his personal and emergency savings due to a lawsuit meant to silence his online criticisms of the company. Proctorio has also targeted students and abused Twitter’s DMCA takedown process to further suppress valid criticisms of its proctoring software.