Education

Webcam Scans for Remote Tests Violate Student Privacy, Judge Rules


Cleveland State University violated a student’s privacy when a virtual proctor required a webcam scan of the student’s room before a remote test, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Aaron Ogletree was asked to scan his bedroom with a webcam prior to taking an online chemistry test in the spring 2021 semester. He tried to object to the request, citing confidential tax documents in the area, but ultimately complied. The recorded scan lasted less than one minute and was retained by a third-party vendor of the university. Ogletree subsequently sued the university, stating that the scan violated his Fourth Amendment right that guards “against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Cleveland State argued that the room scan was not a “search” because it was brief, limited in scope and conducted for noncriminal purposes. The university also argued that the inspection was “reasonable” because it happened during business hours, was not an attempt to “snoop” and did not involve law enforcement, and that the practice was a standard industry practice with which students typically cooperate.

Judge J. Philip Calabrese ruled, however, that the student had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his home.

Dave Kielmeyer, Cleveland State’s associate vice president for marketing and communications, told The Verge, “As directed by the Court, Cleveland State University’s counsel will confer with Mr. Ogletree’s counsel on appropriate next steps. Ensuring academic integrity is essential to our mission and will guide us as we move forward. While this matter remains in active litigation, we are unable to comment further.”

Colleges’ use of online proctoring software and services has been growing, as has controversy surrounding it.

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