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NSA raises questions about Internet privacy, online proctoring providers cite FERPA compliance

Published: January 7, 2014 | Category: Latest News

Recent revelations about the U.S. government’s domestic phone spying program have been dominating the coverage from major media outlets. A secret court, known as FISA or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, issued the order on April 25, 2013. The order  grants the federal government, through the National Security Agency (NSA), access to telephone provider Verizon Wireless customer “metadata” for a period of three months, ending on July 19, 2013. The program was first exposed by the British newspaper The Guardian.

While the actual content of the phone conversations is not recorded or stored, phone metadata has come to include:

  • Originating and terminating telephone number
  • International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number
  • International Mobile station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number
  • Trunk identifier (a line or link designed to handle many signals simultaneously, and that connects major switching centers or nodes in a communications system)
  • Telephone calling card numbers
  • Time of call
  • Duration of call

The Washington Post also exposed a government program, codenamed “Prism,” that reportedly gives the federal government direct access to nine major tech company servers. It is reported that the program, which dates back to 2007, gives the NSA authority to extract audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs from companies like Facebook, Google, Skype and Apple.

The recent reports have renewed concerns about privacy in the digital age. Online proctoring is no exception. Having a stranger with the ability to access their computer remotely can be disconcerting for many test takers. Some see it as an intrusion of privacy and an unnecessary protocol, while others embrace the technology and see benefits from the free, basic technical troubleshooting.

Access is granted by the user for three basic reasons: technical troubleshooting, desktop-screen viewing and password input to unlock the examination. Users are able to view in real-time exactly what a proctor is doing and no backdoor file access or control is possible.

A perfect anecdote would be any other type of in-home service. For example, when you invite a plumber into your home, you wouldn’t want to leave in plain sight things like bank account numbers or credit card information. That worker is not going to actively dig through your files because they have a job to complete and their business depends on your trust. ProctorU is no different and you have the same viewing of activity and processes as you would being able to watch the plumber perform their duties in person.

ProctorU was founded on principles of privacy and adherence to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). in 2013, ProctorU was successfully audited by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) for FERPA compliance.

Privacy in the digital age will always be a concern of both host parties and end-users. Vendors like ProctorU seek to limit the liability for institutions under the FERPA guidelines and end-users want as little intrusion as possible. By giving examinees an exact view of what is being controlled on their computer and reducing the risk of educational record exposure, ProctorU goes above and beyond the guidelines laid out by FERPA policy.