[Plura-list] The pandemic showed remote proctoring to be worse than useless

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Thu Jun 24 08:18:33 EDT 2021


This Saturday, I'm appearing on a panel at the Locus Awards for Locus
Magazine. Wole Talabi, Paul McAuley, Karen Obsorne and I will discourse
on  "Future Tech: Working the Science into Your Fiction" at 13h Pacific.



Today's links

* The pandemic showed remote proctoring to be worse than useless: Kill
it with fire.

* This day in history: 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016, 2020

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current
writing projects, current reading


🧚🏽 The pandemic showed remote proctoring to be worse than useless

Before covid, "remote proctoring" tools were a niche product, invasive
tools that spied on students who needed to take high-stakes tests but
couldn't get to campus or a satellite test-taking room. But the lockdown
meant that *all* students found themselves in this position.

This could have prompted educators to reconsider the use of high-stakes
tests. After all, high-stakes testing has well-understood limitations in
pedagogy, and organizes education around a highly artificial ritual
completely unlike the rest of scholarly *and* industrial life.

It's not like anyone does a *job* where you are prohibited from
consulting reference texts or collaborating with your colleagues (if you
have an colleague who does this, you should probably ask to be
transferred to another team).

While in the academy, neither scholars nor researchers work without
collaboration or access to references. It's not clear what, exactly, a
high-stakes test measures, apart from your ability to engage in the
useless, non-transferrable skill of sitting a high-stakes test.

But rather than rethinking assessment, educational institutions doubled
down on remote proctoring, throwing stupendous sums at companies that
made outrageous promises about their ability to automatically detect
cheating with "AI."

While this threw every student into a meat-grinder of opaque algorithmic
cruelty, not every student suffered equally. In "Rejecting Test
Surveillance in Higher Education," Georgetown Law's Lindsey Barrett
describes the unequal and disproportionate harms.


While Barrett's paper is long and thoughtful, the introduction tells
five stories, smartly making the case that if you are already
marginalized, remote proctoring hurts you more than your fellows,
magnifying your existing disadvantages.

Jazi: "a first-generation student" and caretaker (thanks to covid), who
"was flagged for 'suspicious noise'" (small children) "by the software
recording her take an exam in her family’s home," who "emptied her bank
account to pay for on-campus housing."

Ashley, who "dissolved into tears" when "a remote proctor with access to
her computer kept moving her cursor...distracting her and exacerbating
her anxiety about her performance."

Audrey, "a transgender student at the Georgia Institute of Technology"
who was "humiliated" when a remote proctor demanded their professor to
confirm Audrey’s identity thanks to a photo ID that didn’t match their
gender presentation.

Tracy, a OSU grad with ADHD who could only use "'half her brain" on her
remotely proctored exam, using the other half to police "the minor
fidgeting that is a side effect of her condition, as she was afraid the
software would characterize her movements as suspect."

Ahmed, "an Arab-American law school graduate, estimated that he tried 75
times to get the remote proctoring software he would be required to use
on the bar exam to recognize his face. It never did."

If you are poor, if you have a disability, if you struggle with your
mental health, if you are racialized, if you are gender nonconforming,
then remote proctoring tools punished you for who you were, far more
than it did your peers.

Remote proctoring companies were incredibly successful covid profiteers,
growing by leaps and bounds during the pandemic. As they grew, so did
the harms they imposed on the public.

The companies responded to bad news about their products by deploying
their covid riches to threaten their critics. Proctorio went after
educators like Ian Linkletter with a baseless - but ruinously expensive
- copyright claim to silence his criticism.


But Proctorio didn't limit its harassment to adults who could take care
of themselves - the CEO *personally doxed a student* who criticized his
product on Reddit.


Proctorio isn't an outlier. The entire sector runs on bad faith,
bullying and legal harassment. EFF's massive roundup of the lies and
frauds of the remote proctoring sector is a good place to refresh your


Be sure to read to the end, where Jason Kelley and Haley Amster document
how, after apologizing and promising changes, the leading remote
proctoring companies are *still* wreaking havoc.

After all, these are companies that claim they can automatically rank
whether students are "high integrity" or "low integrity" and produce
"suspicion rankings" based on data analysis. This isn't computer
science, it's digital phrenology.

Barrett ends well: "Recommendations For Use of Remote Proctoring
Software: Don’t." Instead, she sets out a of alternatives to high-stakes
testing, including "long papers graded at multiple stages," "short
response papers" and "presentations with a peer critique component."

If you must use timed, remote exams, change parameters to make gaming
harder: allow open books, randomize question orders, and encourage

If you need to hire more TAs to help grade these more pedagogically
useful assessments, look to the savings from ditching remote proctoring
tools, like the $500k/year that some schools are paying Proctorio.

Above all, Barrett says, don't normalize this. This was a mistake,
something that compounded the pain of the lockdown. This is the moment
to reassess our approach: to reverse the alarming trend of increasing
commercial surveillance of our students.



🧚🏽 This day in history

#20yrsago Queer kid vs high-school censorware

#20yrsago AI has arrived!

#15yrsago Disney: We [will|won’t] sue if you put Pooh on a baby’s

#10yrsago Mexican Congress votes to reject ACTA

#5yrsago The morning after the Brexit vote, Nigel Farage admits money
for the NHS was a lie https://twitter.com/GMB/status/746218028195426305

#5yrsago How to protect the future web from its founders’ own frailty

#5yrsago More than 30 people burned during Tony Robbins “motivational”

#5yrsago Sanders will vote Hillary

#5yrsago Google’s version of the W3C’s video DRM has been cracked

#5yrsago Undercover reporter spent four months as a prison guard in a
Louisiana pen run by CCA

#1yrago You are wrong about CDA 230

#1yrago Vegas casino workers beg for their lives

#1yrago AOC wins

#1yrago EU v FB (vg!)


🧚🏽 Colophon

Currently writing:

* Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests.
Wednesday's progress: 251 words (7056 words total).

* A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation.  PLANNING

* A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written
with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown."  FINAL EDITS

* A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause."  FINISHED

* A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues."  FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: Inside The Clock Tower

Upcoming appearances:

* Future Tech: Working the Science into Your Fiction (Locus Awards), Jun
26, https://locusmag.com/2021-locus-awards-weekend/

* Launch for Neil Sharpson's When the Sparrow Falls (Mysterious Galaxy),

Recent appearances:

* Big Tech Fix, Feet to the Fire podcast:

* The ACCESS Act, Consumer Reports:

* Raging Chicken podcast:

Latest book:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone
technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political
cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution
and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a
(print edition:
(signed copies:

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics,
Beacon Press 2022

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"*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla*" -Joey "Accordion
Guy" DeVilla

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