An Ohio judge has ruled that a Cleveland State University’s virtual scan of a college dorm room prior to an online test was unconstitutional. The ruling marks a victory for digital privacy advocates across the country, who have spoken out loudly against the practices of online test proctoring for years.
Chemistry student Aaron Ogletree took an online test in the spring semester 2021. Ogletree was asked to show the virtual proctor his bedroom via his webcam before the start of the test. A recording of the chamber scan and the testing process that followed was kept by Honorlock, the university’s third-party provider.
Ogletree sued the university on the grounds that the practice violated its rights under the Fourth Amendment, which protects U.S. citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The university argues in defense that “room scans are ‘standard industry-wide practice'” and that “students often agree to use them.”
Federal Judge J. Philip Calabrese on the side of Ogletree determined yesterday that the university room scan was indeed an unreasonable search. “Mr. Ogletree’s subjective expectation of privacy in question is one that society views as reasonable and is at the heart of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against government interference,” Calabrese wrote in the decision.
Many universities around the world use e-proctoring programs that may require room scans or similar practices. In some cases, students must show their ID and environment to a live invigilator; in others they are registered and monitored by AI with “suspicious signals” marked for professors. Such programs are controversial among students and have met resistance from prominent digital privacy organizations as well as: officials. The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed complaints against Honorlock and four similar proctoring services in late 2020, calling their practices “inherently invasive.”
“We applaud Cleveland State University student Aaron Ogletree for stopping the invasive and inappropriate ‘room scans’ that his university required to take a chemistry test,” said Lia Holland, Fight for Campaign and Communications Director. the Future, in a statement. “Let Aaron’s victory be a warning to other universities that continue to push for such abusive software on their students.”
Dave Kielmeyer, Cleveland State University’s Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications, said: The edge“As directed by the court, counsel for Cleveland State University will consult with counsel for Mr. Ogletree on appropriate next steps. Ensuring academic integrity is essential to our mission and will guide us as we move forward. While this case is still under active litigation, we are unable to comment further.”
Update August 23, 3:17 PM ET: Added statement from Cleveland State University.