After a hack brought the system down, a petition with over 10,000 signatures and calls from student and faculty leaders, it has become painfully obvious that Western needs to drop Proctortrack — permanently.
The e-proctoring software, used by Western University to monitor students during online exams, collects students’ biometric data, records during assessments and documents personal information. To put it plainly, Proctortrack is an invasion of students' privacy.
Western admitted as much in a statement, saying they “acknowledge this tool uses invasive technology to operate.” And while the university claims to be listening to the concerns of students and staff forced to use a system that violates their privacy, the school’s actions prove otherwise.
Western prides itself on being in-touch with their student body, but with over 10,000 signatures on a petition for Proctortrack’s removal, it’s clear students don’t want this software — yet Western is awfully quiet.
It’s not enough for Western to tell students to trust their data is secure with a third-party — student have a right to know what Western’s contract with the company allows them to do with student data.
Even the information that is public is troubling. Student recordings from assessments are held for 180 days and student “identity verification data” is held for a year — even though classes using the software only run for four to eight months. Students can request for their data to be deleted, but it's not enough to expect students to make the request for every assignment.
Students have lost their freedom to make choices about their own data security — Western has an ultimatum with Proctortrack “graduate or put your privacy on the line,” and that’s not acceptable when students have already paid thousands in tuition.
Even students could be confident their data is secure with Proctortrack, the university should still stop mandating the software. Beyond the normal added stress of robo-proctors: online proctoring is inherently ableist. Most people cannot stare at a screen for three hours straight without looking up — and this becomes significantly more challenging for students who have Attention Deficit Disorder, a history of concussions or a whole host of other medical conditions that can make the rigidity Proctortrack mandates unrealistic.
Western has said they need e-proctoring for online assessments to ensure academic integrity and catch cheaters, but Proctortrack is not the only option. A simple alternative would be to replace Proctortrack with a software with a more stable security track record, but that doesn’t solve the issues when it comes to added stress and accessibility of e-proctoring — and it might not even be necessary.
The week-long suspension of Proctortrack at the peak of midterm season proved that assessments can run just fine without the software. Professors replaced their invasive Proctortrack exams with take-home assessments, projects and even Zoom proctoring, where students were monitored taking an exam over a Zoom call.
Western is an academic institution and the administration has a duty to ensure academic integrity. But before that, the university is a place of learning and Western students have a right to learn and be assessed without putting their privacy or well-being on the line.