Webcam exam software “discriminatory,” doesn’t recognize darker skin tones, says student
A student of the VU University Amsterdam filed a complaint at the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights in Utrecht on Friday because the anti-cheating software used during exams didn’t work well with her dark skin tone. According to the Racism and Technology Center in Amsterdam, she cannot be the only one. Thousands of students with dark skin tones may have suffered from it, causing them a lot of extra stress, the organization fears.
During the coronavirus crisis, students had to take exams at home. Universities used anti-cheat software to prevent fraud. Among other things, the software had to recognize the student’s faces. But it couldn’t recognize the student in question, Robin Pocornie. It wasn’t until she pointed an extra light at her face that the surveillance software Proctorio finally recognized her. And in the meantime, she had a lot of extra stress to deal with. She feels discriminated against.
“So the system that must ensure that there is no cheating turns out to be unfair,” said Hans de Zwart of the Racism and Technology Center. According to the Racism and Technology Center, it has been known for some time that facial recognition can struggle with people of color, and that is certainly the case with Proctorio. Yet several universities still use the software, the Center said.
According to De Zwart, universities can also check candidates in a different way, simply via a video connection with a human. This method has been used in the past. Pocornie, who is dissatisfied with how the VU handled her complaint about the problem, hopes that going to the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights will make it clear that public institutions have a duty to ensure that a system does not discriminate before using this type of technology.