Ch 11: #Againstsurveillance

Us vs. Them

In a world where internet has taken over the majority, if not everyone’s lives, there is still discussion about privacy. Privacy on a platform where once something is put up, will most likely be available for people to see (depending on who they are of course). Tracy Zhang led the research and writing on the article Students Are Pushing Back Against Proctoring Surveillance Apps, presenting information that focuses on how huge populations of university students fighting for their right to privacy. Let’s see what Zhang (and I) think about this.

Zhang highlights two proctoring apps specifically: Honorlock and Proctoring. Honorlock is an app which collects facial information, driver’s license and network information, keeping it with them for in some cases up to two years. Proctoring is an app that’s used for testing and exams in which students must take those tests at home. The app films students in their own home or personal environment, making the students experience an invasion of privacy. These apps, among others, are not only boiling the blood of university students because they can see what they shouldn’t have to, they are also instigators of bias, stress, cost and equity/accessibility. Proctoring apps sometimes don’t recognize people of brown or black skin color, making the algorithms of it flawed by the user. And what if a student wants to look away from the computer screen while using the Proctoring app? But no, they can’t. Because eye movement away from the screen will automatically label as “suspicious.” Unfortunately, students who have ADHD or other conditions that make them have to look away or who get easily distracted will not be excused either because with proctoring apps, there are no exceptions. And testing anxiety…well, that’s something many students suffer from. Not being able to remember everything, having difficulty finding a good amount of time to study, sitting in one place for hours and hoping to get an A is not unfamiliar to students. But again, Proctoring app refuses to acknowledge that too. The student must be sitting in front of the camera till they are done with the exam, building their anxiety to a level that is inexplicable all because they know they a pair of eyes staring them down the whole time (but who knows? The proctor could be in the bathroom or watching TV with a glass of wine for all you know…)  

And these additional added parts like a camera or microphone? One thing these things are not, are cheap. What about students who can’t afford these things? What if they are already working two jobs to pay their tuition and fees, or helping their family while they are it? It’s not accessible and easy for everyone to have, which is why equity is a huge issue that needs to be addressed and fixed when dealing with the questioning and possible removal of proctoring apps. Systems become vulnerable with Respondus to attacks, hackers and viruses. And so does cloud services. As much as they want to present themselves in a unique and powerful fashion, everything will always have some loophole, some flaw which a cunning hacker can crack.

But come to think of it, these students shouldn’t be surprised with what proctoring apps can do. In Shoshana Zuboff’s interview (based on a previous blog), the interviewer said that he made his kids aware that by being on apps, putting public profiles, having social media, etc. means their privacy is being invaded. But his kids answered, “I am willing to give up my privacy if it means convenience for me.” So there it is…convenience. That’s the cost of it. So is it fair that the same students who willingly sacrifice their privacy for convenience on their own terms are the same ones complaining and petitioning about proctoring apps and the effects of them? Maybe it’s a different case, maybe it’s not. But one thing I have learned, is that you can’t really pick and choose what you want. You might think you can custom-make everything, but really, you can’t. You either take the whole package with its good and bad, or you don’t pick it at all. That’s what’s happening now. People need to understand that in the world of internet, social media, webcams, apps, there is no such thing as privacy. This world is public and everything within is too. Did it just happen? No, we made it that way and we are all complacent with what it is and what it’s becoming. So before petitions start being made and people get rounded up to make their voice hear, get one thing. It’s always been us vs. them, and honestly, we let it happen that way.

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