Weldon computers (Photo)

The computers in Weldon near where the individual was apprehended, Nov. 5, 2018.

Ten-thousand Western students are petitioning to end the use of Proctortrack, the online proctoring system used by several major Canadian universities, arguing the software violates their privacy.

Corey Vercauteren, a third-year computer science student, started the petition to stop using Proctortrack for assessments at Western University on Sept. 25. The petition now has over 10,000 signatures and the university is yet to formally acknowledge it.

Even months after starting his petition, Corey still firmly believes the university should remove Proctortrack, especially as Western will continue to use the software following last month's security breach.

"It's still an invasive software that takes too much data and can't entirely be trusted," Vercauteren said. "The security breach just goes to show that the company is vulnerable, attacks like this are going to happen and it is pretty much inevitable."

Western wrote to students Oct. 29, saying they hear the concerns about e-proctoring, but will continue to use Proctortrack for this semester's assessments — the closest the university has come to acknowledging the petition publicly.

"We have heard the concerns of students, faculty, and other members of our community with respect to Western’s decision to use Proctortrack. We acknowledge this tool uses invasive technology to operate," the email to students reads.

Verificient, Proctortrack's parent company, said no student data was accessed during the breach.

Vercauteren’s push to remove Proctortrack began in early September, as he felt uneasy about the privacy risks the software posed. After an unsuccessful discussion with his department and undergraduate chairs, Vercauteren launched the petition.

“It’s not that I originally wanted to take [the petition] as a first route. I did contact my undergraduate chair and my department head and the response I got from them was rather lacklustre in terms of what I wanted to open a discussion for,” he said.

“So, for me personally, I found that the way I was going to get to someone I was going to be able to talk to was through starting a petition.”

Vercauten’s petition asks for Proctortrack to be removed and replaced with a software that is more respectful of students' privacy.

"Proctortrack, very simply, is a blatant disregard for students’ privacy and the security of their information in the face of 'integrity,'" the petition reads. "It is invasive and a breach of ethics."

Proctortrack updated their privacy policy Sept. 15 to remove any third-party association and key stroke tracking. Western's agreement with the company also prevents the software from taking knuckle or voice scans. But Vercauteren feels this change isn’t enough.

Vercauteren does feel there should be a proctoring service. An ideal replacement for him would be a web-based service so students do not need to risk their security while downloading proctoring software.

He also hopes that the proctoring service should eventually be run by Western themselves, as they will be able to protect students and their privacy much better than a corporation. The data is retained within Western, according to their privacy website, and students can request for their data to be destroyed after each exam.

Even with all of the support the petition has seen, Vercauteren is still hoping to speak with Western officials and share his message with more of the university, which is why he has now reached out to the Board of Governors, student-elected Senate members and the University Students' Council, as well as Western IT.

“I see what they’re doing with Proctortrack now and I feel as if Western’s words six years ago [during a previous security breach] were hollow now, they don't follow through with that.”

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