tracking online students

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Viral tweets expose the invasive software teachers are using to monitor students

Controversial education software like TestWe under fire.


Brianna Holt


Posted on Sep 23, 2020   Updated on Sep 23, 2020, 9:03 am CDT

A tweet about schools’ new surveillance measures is going viral after being posted to Reddit’s r/assholedesign forum. “Our school is making us use this ‘online testing’ software to prevent cheating. It just so happens that this software edits your computer’s registry, has no privacy policy, has countless news articles saying it’s a shitshow, and takes unauthorized control of your PC. How fun!” Twitter user @TheRealGDColon wrote. “When you take a test with the program, it force quits everything on your PC (including zoom) and doesn’t let you reopen it. It also streams your webcam directly to teachers. Isn’t that a fun and safe program!” he followed up in a second tweet.

The software being referenced is TestWe and the practice isn’t uncommon. As teachers have been forced to hold classes online, many schools are implementing surveillance software systems to monitor students while taking exams. One specific test-proctoring system, Examity, has received scrutiny for “creeping students out.” The system grants the proctor remote access to a user’s computer, allowing a complete stranger to watch you through a video camera and see your personal information. 

Another growing concern about downloading such a system onto your computer is the potential risk of hacking and data collection. If a vendor is able to collect a student’s data through installment and enrollment in the software, colleges need to take ownership of that information. Zoom specifically has avoided falling victim to this issue and as a result, has become a leading system in online teaching during the pandemic. “Zoom only collects user data to the extent it is absolutely necessary to provide technical and operational support, and to improve our services. Zoom must collect technical information like users’ IP address, OS details and device details in order for our service to function properly. When user data is used for service improvement, it is completely anonymized and aggregated immediately upon collection in order to protect users’ identities and privacy,” Jay Clarke, senior privacy program manager at Zoom, told Inside Hire Ed.

@TheRealGDColon followed up with those same concerns with his school’s new policy. “I’m not sure what’s more creepy – the software itself, or the fact that 99% of the students and teachers are gonna install it like total sheep and use it without asking any questions. This thing is basically a virus and I feel obligated to speak up about it.”

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*First Published: Sep 23, 2020, 9:02 am CDT