Cleveland State University proctoring bedroom scans ruled 'unconstitutional'

Occurred: December 2022

An Ohio judge ruled that the scanning of students' rooms before and during remote exams constitured an invasion of privacy and violated the US Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful searches in American homes. 

Cleveland State University student Aaron Ogletree agreed to a room scan before a chemistry exam. With other people in his home, he took the test in his bedroom, where he had sensitive tax documents spread out on a surface. These documents were visible in the room scan recording and were shared with other students.

The university had defended its room scans by saying that it had become common during the COVID-19 pandemic and more acceptable to society, that Ogletree had not been coerced into scanning his room, and that he could have removed any sensitive documents or have chosen to take the test in a different room.

The ruling raised questions about the nature and legality of Honorlock and other online exam cheating detection systems, and was applauded by digital rights and privacy groups. 

Privacy non-profit Fight for the Future said the ruling was a 'major victory' and called on higher learning institutions 'to ban not only room scans, but invasive and discriminatory eproctoring software once and for all.'

In December 2020, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint (pdf) against Honorlock and four similar proctoring services, calling their practices 'inherently invasive.'

Operator: Cleveland State University (CSU)
Developer: Honorlock; Respondus
Country: USA
Sector: Education
Purpose: Detect and prevent cheating
Technology: Facial detection; Gaze detection; Machine learning
Issue: Privacy
Transparency: Privacy

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Type: Incident
Published: January 2023
Last updated: October 2023