University of Wisconsin disables Honorlock after 'racist' software accusations

Occurred: April 2021

The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) disabled its Honorlock anti-cheating software after three students with darker skin complained the programme had failed to recognise their facial features. 

Honorlock disputed the issue was related to skin tone, suggesting the students were looking down or away from the webcam during their exam.

UW-Madison first started working with Honorlock in summer 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, which forced many students across the US to take exams in their homes. 

In October 2021, the university renewed its contract with Honorlock, despite over 2,000 UW-Madison students signing a petition complaining it abused student privacy and calling for it to be banned.

Honorlock is an automated proctoring solution designed to help schools and universities monitor exams live using AI technologies. It lets college administrators customise online exams and generate analytics, and students to verify their identity and take tests using a Google Chrome plugin. 

System 🤖

Documents 📃

Operator: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Developer: Honorlock
Country: USA
Sector: Education
Purpose: Detect and prevent cheating
Technology: Facial recognition; Voice recognition
Issue: Accessibility/usability; Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity, disability, gender; Effectiveness/value; Privacy; Surveillance
Transparency: Governance; Black box

Research, advocacy 🧮

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