Tucked away in a 1,200-page bill now in Congress is a small paragraph that could lead distance-education institutions to require spy cameras in their students' homes.
It sounds Orwellian, but the paragraph — part of legislation renewing the Higher Education Act — is all but assured of becoming law by the fall. No one in Congress objects to it.
The paragraph is actually about clamping down on cheating. It says that an institution that offers an online program must prove that an enrolled student is the same person who does the work.
Already, the language is spurring some colleges to try technologies that authenticate online test takers by reading their fingerprints, watching them via Web cameras, or recording their keystrokes. Some colleges claim there are advantages for students: The devices allow them to take tests anytime, anywhere. Many students must now travel to distant locations so a proctor can watch them take exams on paper.
But some college officials are wary of the technologies, noting that they are run by third-party vendors that may not safeguard students' privacy. Among the information the vendors collect are students' fingerprints, and possibly even images from inside their homes. | via |
Will these students voluntarily give up their privacy, for the gain of being able to take relatively inexpensive classes at a distance? I think some probably will.