With 1.2 billion learners impacted by COVID-19 school closures, proctor applications are becoming critical for ensuring test taking remains fair remotely. Because proctor applications require a lot of information from the user, which can include webcam access, driver’s licenses, passports and sometimes a complete computer takeover, the organizations behind these apps are responsible for keeping user data secure to protect privacy.
If this user data is breached, students are at an increased risk for identity theft and fraud. With 58 percent of higher education institutions considering or having already decided to remain fully online for fall 2020, proctor application development will likely increase, so data protection and privacy must be front and center.
While there are risks when using insecure applications, there are also best practices institutions can follow to protect student data.
Proctor applications and privacy concerns
Educational institutions are at a crossroads of ensuring fair test taking while not being too intrusive into a student’s privacy. As seen with the recent American Board of Surgery licensing exam, full access to computers, webcams, and phones was required to take the test, in addition to a photo of the student’s passport and a face scan. As in this case, proctor applications sometimes require extensive access and data to ensure there is no possibility of cheating.
By using these applications, schools can ensure the enrolled student completed the test and did not get up to consult a person or use their computer or a mobile device to look up an answer.
The proctoring process gives the application access to sensitive personal information, including home addresses, stored passwords, photos of the student, phone numbers, passport numbers, and email addresses. Proctor applications often store this data on servers and if breached, this data could end up for sale on the dark web.
Cybercriminals can then use this information to impersonate the student, potentially giving them access to an account that was previously set up with the breached information. This can include social media accounts, bank accounts and even insurance accounts. Once logged in, fraudsters can transfer funds, steal benefits, send emails from the user’s account and change passwords to lock the real user out entirely.
If these privacy concerns are not addressed, test takers are put in a tough position — open yourself up to potential fraud or forfeit your chance to complete the test?
Ensuring a fair test while protecting privacy
Educational institutions must ensure data stored and shared within proctoring applications is secured and protected. Applications should not store user data longer than required to confirm the student did not cheat in order to avoid privacy concerns and minimize the damage inflicted by a data breach.
To comply with regulations such as GDPR and CCPA, educational organizations should select applications that have well-documented privacy statements detailing what student data is being collected, why, and how it will be used. This clause should be communicated to students prior to the exam. Only proctor applications with high standards for data protection should be used, as ultimately some level of student personal information will be required to take the test.
COVID-19’s impact on the future of learning
Protecting student privacy must be top of mind when deploying digital tools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools are keeping students remote to protect their physical safety, online safety must not be forgotten. Because application developers are capitalizing on the need for remote apps and tools, educational institutions must properly vet selected applications to ensure student privacy is not put at risk to ensure a fair testing experience.
By selecting secure applications with clear privacy clauses on how student data is being collected and used, educational institutions can keep student information secure while ensuring academic integrity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and in the future.
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