Court: Remote Test Proctoring Scan of Student’s Bedroom Violated Fourth Amendment

August 23, 2022

A federal court in Ohio has ruled that Cleveland State University violated a student’s Fourth Amendment rights when it forced him to scan his bedroom with a laptop camera before taking a test from home. The decision could significantly reshape state schools’ use of remote proctoring tools, which monitor students during at-home tests and purport to identify indicators of cheating or other prohibited behaviors.

As EPIC detailed in a 2020 complaint against five leading remote proctoring platforms, the growth of online test proctoring during the COVID-19 pandemic has all but forced many students to trade away their privacy rights in order to meet their academic obligations. Students enrolled in a class that uses a remote proctoring system may not be able opt out of personal data collection or video surveillance of their intimate surroundings, cannot avoid the system’s use of facial recognition and AI analysis, and are generally denied access to the system’s underlying logic and determinations. 

“Though schools may routinely employ remote technology to peer into houses without objection from some, most, or nearly all students, it does not follow that others might not object to the virtual intrusion into their homes or that the routine use of a practice such as room scans does not violate a privacy interest that society recognizes as reasonable, both factually and legally,” the court wrote in its decision. “Therefore, the Court determines that [the plaintiff’s] subjective expectation of privacy at issue is one that society views as reasonable and that lies at the core of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against governmental intrusion.”

EPIC has long advocated for robust enforcement of the Fourth Amendment and for the protection of student privacy. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission issued a policy statement warning edtech companies not to make student surveillance a condition of accessing educational tools.

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