Student Privacy at Risk under COVID-19: Online Test Proctoring Brings AI and Surveillance Into Students’ Homes


  • John Davisson


  • Lydia X. Z. Brown
  • Meg Foulkes
  • Sofie Van Londen
  • Maha Bali

Organisation: Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

Room: Online 3

Timing: 18:30 - 19:45 on 28 January 2021

The use of online test proctoring has grown dramatically in the past year as educational institutions have adopted remote learning tools in response to COVID-19. This shift has forced many students to effectively trade away their privacy rights in order to meet their academic obligations. Increasingly, students must submit to invasive surveillance of their intimate spaces; compulsory collection of biometric and other sensitive personal data; and opaque AI analysis of their movements, facial expressions, and keystrokes—all in the name of detecting signs of cheating. Yet the fairness and reliability of these systems has been called into doubt, and there is evidence that automated proctoring systems struggle to recognize faces of color and disproportionately flag students with disabilities. Against this backdrop, this panel will explore the legal, ethical, and educational implications of online test proctoring.

• What are the risks and harms associated with online test proctoring?
• Are the online proctoring systems used today defensible, fair, or legal?
• What, if anything, can be done to make these systems algorithmically just and protective of privacy?
• Or is mandatory online proctoring incompatible with the privacy and human rights of students?


John Davisson

Electronic Privacy Information Center EPIC (US)

John Davisson is Senior Counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in Washington, DC. He has worked on a wide range of privacy, consumer protection, surveillance, and open government cases in his time at EPIC. John’s prior experience includes Georgetown University's Institute for Public Representation, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, and the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. John is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center and worked as a journalist before entering the law.


Lydia X. Z. Brown

Center for Democracy & Technology (US)

Lydia X. Z. Brown is a Policy Counsel with CDT’s Privacy and Data Project, focused on disability rights and algorithmic fairness and justice. Lydia is adjunct lecturer and core faculty in Georgetown University’s Disability Studies Program, and founding director of the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment. They serve on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights, chair the ABA’s Civil Rights and Social Justice Section’s Disability Rights Committee, and represent the Disability Justice Committee to the National Lawyers Guild’s National Executive Committee.

Meg Foulkes

Open Knowledge Foundation (UK)

Meg Foulkes is the Director of the Open Knowledge Justice Programme, a project of Open Knowledge Foundation. The Justice Programme's mission is to ensure public impact algorithms cause no harm. By 'public impact algorithms' we mean automated decision-making using AI and algorithms by governments and corporate entities that has the potential to cause serious negative impacts on individuals. We aim to make the deployment of these algorithms accountable, through training legal professionals, advocacy and strategic litigation.
Before joining Open Knowledge in 2012, Meg worked as a Legal Adviser at the Refugee Legal Centre for detained asylum seekers in the UK. She is currently combining her day job with qualifying as a barrister, which she will do in July 2021.

Sofie Van Londen

van londen advocatuur (NL)

Sofie advises on the legal framework of data driven projects, new products and technologies. She also assists with (personal) data breaches, including litigation. She is lead counsel in the case brought by the student representative body of University of Amsterdam about using the program proctorio for online surveillance during testing.

Maha Bali

Center for Learning and Teaching, American University in Cairo (EG)

Faculty developer at the American University in Cairo. Holds a PhD in Education from the University of Sheffield, UK. Co-founder of (a grassroots movement that challenges academic gatekeeping at conferences) and co-facilitator of Equity Unbound (an equity-focused, open, connected intercultural learning curriculum, which has also branched into academic community activities Continuity with Care and Socially Just Academia). She writes and speaks frequently about social justice, critical pedagogy, and open and online education. She blogs regularly at and tweets @bali_maha