Anti-Cheat Software Company Contracted By Rutgers Fails To Live Up To Privacy Agreement With Students

from the i-see-you dept

There has always been a strong emphasis in educational institutions on stopping cheating. All of this hand-wringing makes sense to a point, of course. With the advent of technological progress, however, two separate roads appear to be heading to a cross: the use of technology to stop cheaters and the question of just how we're going to define cheating as information becomes more widely searchable and available. For the latter, I'm very much in favor of judging students on their ability to find answers and create interesting solutions compared with the originality of their responses. As the saying goes, it's not what you think that's most important, but how you think. As to the former, it seems we can't go a single story about schools using technology to police any aspect of their students without finding some failing in its implementation.

Such as the latest instance out of Rutgers, where the school hastily dove into a partnership with ProctorTrack, an anti-cheating and student-monitoring platform that failed to live up to its end of the privacy bargain with students.

Verificient Technologies, the company behind the student-monitoring, anti-cheating software ProctorTrack, has not communicated to Rutgers students what the company has done with their personal data.

As we reported, ProctorTrack uses remote-monitoring technology to collect audio, video, and document the web activity of students as they take the exam. The software also scans the ID, face and knuckles of the student, and takes a voice sample. But complaints from students suggest that Verificient has not sent out any notification about the status of their data.
Notifications that Verificient was contract-bound to supply to students upon the purging of the data it collected on them. The way this was supposed to work was that all student monitoring data would be deleted from the primary servers after 90 days, with a notice to students, and then deleted form the backup servers 30 days after that, with another notice to students. Aiding in the confusion is that Rutgers had initially told students the purges would occur within 30 days of the test, back when the school had only a verbal agreement with Verificient, as did the company on its website in what it called its "privacy pledge." That pledge appears to have been violated in the name of "we can change our promise whenever the hell we feel like it" corporate provisions.
But the company's privacy policy at the time of the blog post stated that it could unilaterally amend its policies at any time, and that student data could be disclosed to third party service providers or in the event of a bankruptcy or company merger. But the contract singed in August provided for a longer time frame to delete data, and notify students: 90 days.

According to the contract, which actually went into effect seven months before it was signed, students who used the software during the spring 2015 semester should have received email notifications that their proctoring data had been permanently deleted from the servers.
But they didn't get those emails and students are now rightly pissed off at not knowing what the hell is going on with their personal, audio, and video data. Were this about monitoring web-browsing during tests, it would be bad enough, but we're talking about intrusive audio/video data on students and the company handling that information couldn't be bothered to follow its own post-redefinition pledge of privacy notifications. And, it should be noted, Rutgers students themselves had to pay $32 for the privilege of using this software.

So who exactly is the cheater here, guys?

Filed Under: anti-cheating software, data, privacy, proctortrack, spying, students
Companies: rutgers, verificient technologies


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  • identicon
    Frank Cox, 15 Sep 2015 @ 3:34pm

    The contract was singed

    You know that someone is going to get burned on a deal when you singe the contract!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2015 @ 3:52pm

    Breach of Contract

    Simple. Time to lawyer up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 15 Sep 2015 @ 4:22pm

    Thanks for...

    ..the complete set of biometrics.

    Seriously, college kids stupid enough to sign on to something like this, much less PAY to be violated this way, got what they deserved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2015 @ 4:43pm

      Hobsons Choice

      Student's don't sign up for this, not by real choice anyway.
      The only option they were given was to drop the course.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2015 @ 5:50pm

    Call the Next President

    Hillary Clinton, in addition to being uniquely qualified to be the next President, is also uniquely qualified to deal with this situation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2015 @ 6:45pm

    Learn something new every day.

    I didn't know that the North Eastern Seaboard of the United States could become hot enough in August to singe a contract.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2015 @ 6:48pm

    This isn't something that should be foisted on students to begin with let alone requiring students to PAY for what amounts to an Orwellian oversight of their activities. This "We can unilaterally amend our agreements any time we want to because we can" nonsense needs to end in all ways with prejudice especially in what amounts to coercive contracts like this one.

    Can lawyers make a case that these "agreements" are contracts under coercion and therefore not enforceable anyway?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2015 @ 7:33pm

      Re:

      Can lawyers make a case …?
      Oh, I s'pose lawyers might be able to make a case about anything.

      But this isn't really a problem that lawyers —or judges— can solve, or even help much with.

      Either individual students need to realize that their educational goals would be better fulfilled at other institutions… or the entire Rutgers student body needs to rise up and occupy the administration building until the Rutgers president resigns, and the faculty comes to their sense, and the software is junked. Lawyers and judges aren't going to help when you need a student riot. Besides, most of today's lawyers haven't trashed a university admin building since the '70s. They're out of practice.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2015 @ 8:32pm

    That company will close up shop before paying a dime , I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't one our three letter agencies doing beta testing on an unsuspecting controlled group.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen, 15 Sep 2015 @ 8:37pm

    Do You Really Want Cheaters Building Bridges and Practicing Medicine?

    With the advent of technological progress, however, two separate roads appear to be heading to a cross: the use of technology to stop cheaters and the question of just how we're going to define cheating as information becomes more widely searchable and available. For the latter, I'm very much in favor of judging students on their ability to find answers and create interesting solutions compared with the originality of their responses.
    Are you perchance suggesting that you'd have no problem with (say) medical students graduating and going off to practice their surgical skills on unsuspecting patients even though their chosen skillset has less to do with medicine than with finding ever more inventive methods at cheating their way through medical school?

    How about an engineer who knows less about engineering but than he does about getting others to pen assignments and take exams on his behalf? Would you really want him put in charge of building the next Golden Gate or Hoover Dam?

    And why stop there? If it OK to cheat your way through college why shouldn't it be equally OK for someone to cheat their way through driving school? Bribing your instructor or getting your twin brother to take your driving test could certainly be classed as "interesting solutions", but would you really want to be on the same road as them when they are finally allowed out on their own behind the wheel of the family SUV, with lots of know-how about cheating but rather less about the rule of the road or which is the brake pedal and which is the accelerator?
    As the saying goes, it's not what you think that's most important, but how you think.
    Seems to me I can also recall another old saying. The one about cheaters never prospering. But apparently some people think they should be allowed to in the 21st Century.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Sep 2015 @ 9:09pm

      Re: Do You Really Want Cheaters Building Bridges and Practicing Medicine?

      One needs proof that someone is cheating before becoming judge jury and executioner ... pre-crime doesn't work,never has never will.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Stephen, 16 Sep 2015 @ 4:20am

        Re: Re: Do You Really Want Cheaters Building Bridges and Practicing Medicine?

        One needs proof that someone is cheating before becoming judge jury and executioner...
        Which is why college cheaters keep managing to slip the noose...um, net. All those old-fangled rules from the horse-&-buggy era like due process which modern governments long ago decided didn't apply to them in this modern Twenty-First Century age manage to keep gumming up the works for the neck-tie parties when it comes to college cheaters. Like UFOs and Santa Claus, everybody thinks that cheaters don't exist.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2015 @ 6:12am

          Re: Re: Re: Do You Really Want Cheaters Building Bridges and Practicing Medicine?

          I never stated that they didn't exist , I only stated that a student can not be considered a cheater until caught and no software is going to cure or catch someone, It's been proven time in and time out lie detectors don't and never have been consistent enough.there is no one size fits all approach.
          which is why the horse and buggy method has worked for so long.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Stephen, 16 Sep 2015 @ 10:49am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Do You Really Want Cheaters Building Bridges and Practicing Medicine?

            which is why the horse and buggy method has worked for so long
            If modern technology cannot catch the cheaters what makes you think the horse-&-buggy methods will do any better?

            But having said that note that the horse-&-buggy methods I was alluding to in my previous post are not there to CATCH cheaters. Only to deal with them AFTER they have been caught. They rely upon others to do the catching--just as a court of law relies on the police and the FBI to catch those who break the law.

            Note also that your argument doesn't invalidate my original point and the subject line of this thread: do you really want someone who has had to cheat to graduate from medical school practicing medicine on you or your family?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2015 @ 12:15pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Do You Really Want Cheaters Building Bridges and Practicing Medicine?

              The end justifies the means - amirite?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Derek (profile), 16 Sep 2015 @ 5:50am

      Re: Do You Really Want Cheaters Building Bridges and Practicing Medicine?

      I disagree with the sentiment of this post. Your college degree only gets you the first entry-level job. After that, it is your performance that matters.

      You don't get to 'practice your surgical skills' until you have a done a pretty extensive internship, which includes a lot of supervised hands-on work. Same with building a bridge or a dam.

      While I don't condone cheating, I also don't think that your school performance means anything once you are past that entry-level job. I do a lot on mid- and senior-level hiring and your college performance (and even degree) means almost nothing to me.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Stephen, 16 Sep 2015 @ 11:24am

        Re: Re: Do You Really Want Cheaters Building Bridges and Practicing Medicine?

        Your college degree only gets you the first entry-level job. After that, it is your performance that matters.

        You don't get to 'practice your surgical skills' until you have a done a pretty extensive internship, which includes a lot of supervised hands-on work. Same with building a bridge or a dam.
        First of all, if you can cheat your way through medical school you can certainly cheat you way through an internship.

        Secondly, what makes you think an internship is compulsory in today's modern age of shortages and shortcuts? Check out:

        http://www.physiciansweekly.com/practicing-without-residency-training/
        Everyone knows there’s a shortage of primary care physicians, especially in rural areas. The state of Missouri has decided to alleviate this problem with a bill, signed into law by the governor this month, authorizing medical school graduates who have not done any residency training to act as “assistant physicians.”
        It goes on:
        After spending 30 days with a “physician collaborator,” assistant physicians would be allowed to practice independently as long as they were within 50 miles of their collaborator.

        While I don't condone cheating, I also don't think that your school performance means anything once you are past that entry-level job.
        The entire point of going to a university is to acquire the basic knowledge and skills that you will need in your chosen profession. Cheating short circuits that and turns college into a waste of time.

        To phrase that another way, would you give someone a medical internship who had NOT graduated from medical school? or worse has not gone to medical school at all? Because what is the essential difference between someone who has not gone to medical school and someone who has cheated their way through it?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2015 @ 12:17pm

        Re: Re: Do You Really Want Cheaters Building Bridges and Practicing Medicine?

        Your facts and logic are messing up the circle jerk.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jilocasin (profile), 16 Sep 2015 @ 5:54am

      Re: Do You Really Want Cheaters Building Bridges and Practicing Medicine?

      I guess it depends on what you are actually testing on the tests that you are worried about people cheating on.

      I once knew a physics professors who always gave open book tests, at least at the upper levels, and I believe his reasoning was sound.

      His position was that he couldn't really test a student's knowledge in 40 minutes. So a traditional closed book test was useless. Combine that with his belief that it didn't matter how many books, websites, calculators, or computer programs you had access to, if you didn't know the subject you wouldn't be able to pass the test.

      What are you really testing in most traditional tests? How much the student has memorized? How fast they can answer the problem?

      You need to know how well they know the subject. As long as you can tell that they actually did the work, it doesn't really matter how many web sites, other people, they consulted. That knowledge is thesis/practicum/performance testable, not sitting in front of a computer answering questions on a form while an electronic nanny makes sure you don't talk to anyone, or look at any other web pages.

      Personally, I wouldn't want surgeons operating on anyone if all they could do was pass a fill in the form computer proctored test. I would expect that they would have to prove that they could, you know, actually handle a scalpel competently. But perhaps that's just me.....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2015 @ 12:19am

    But the contract singed in August provided for a longer time frame to delete data, and notify students: 90 days.

    Boy did they get burnt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2015 @ 12:34am

    So who exactly is the cheater here, guys?

    The NSA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2015 @ 7:04am

    You write with Waring Blender method: shred and mix everything, leave readers guessing at ingredients.

    First paragraph is near entirely another topic. Should be "Students at X univ using company Y's exam software wonder how much of their privacy remains stored forever." -- The last sentence on policing exams goes way off, since for all you know or say that may be perfect: problem is whether that data has been purged.

    "... judging students on their ability to find answers and create interesting solutions compared with the originality of their responses." -- Perhaps instead of "compared with", you intend "rather than". But how can a creative writer downplay "originality"?

    Please state whether you've actually passed any college writing courses, even with cheating. We're left to assume so, but visible evidence is slim.

    Perhaps you have a niche other than amusing me, just haven't found it. You might excel at "dark and stormy night" contests. Your text could test throwing AI programs into BSOD. You could write "Help" for Microsoft. You could "translate" Russian and Persian into alleged dire threats against the West, that's hot now. -- Or complete change: try selling spools of genuine Google Fiber door-to-door! -- I just can't advise you keep trying to write.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 16 Sep 2015 @ 8:23am

    As to the former, it seems we can't go a single story about schools using technology to police any aspect of their students without finding some failing in its implementation.

    Do I even need to mention the obvious response to this? The ones that don't fail don't become news stories.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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