Stephanie Valentine / Staff Writer
FIU Student Government Council at the Modesto Maidique Campus passed a resolution in support of an ongoing outrage among students regarding the use of the virtual testing proctor, Honorlock.
Honorlock is a Google Chrome extension used in FIU courses to conduct virtual exams with integrity, as a result of transitioning to remote learning last spring semester due to COVID-19.
Written by SGC-MMC Lower Division Senator James Magee, the Lockdown Browser Act does not explicitly propose a ban on Honorlock as the student petition called for, but rather it advocates for Honorlock’s temporary replacement with programs such as Lockdown Browser or Zoom.
“SGA sponsors that we want professors and students to stop using Honorlock for this semester and push it back to next spring and for the alternatives, we gave either Lockdown Browser or Zoom, ” said Magee.
Lockdown browser is also a proctoring service which ensures students abide by test taking protocols even in remote circumstances. But unlike Honorlock, it does not have the extensive security measures and AI features students believe violate their privacy.
In addition to conducting a full 360-degree scan of your testing location, a microphone records the surrounding audio while a webcam tracks the frequency of eye movements.
A student survey Magee conducted, and cited in the Lockdown Browser Act, found that given the choice, FIU students prefer Lockdown Browser to Honorlock by a 13-1 margin, a majority in favor of an alternative browser to Honorlock.
Honorlock requires students to be alone in the room for the entire duration of the test, a challenge for those living with large families.
“I feel like it’s really affecting their abilities to give a really good outcome to their professors on their grades, and on testing, just because of their environment,” said Magee.
Jazzi Brown is a marketing student at FIU, and when remote learning began last spring she quickly noticed a problem in the way tests were being conducted.
“I took a test on Honorlock and my roommate, she wasn’t in the room, left and it heard the front door close and it stopped my test so that gave me a little bit of anxiety,” said Brown.
She says the testing requirements are impractical.
“Some people I know have a ton of family at home, so being in a room alone completely quiet is just not realistic,” she added.
Responding to the endless complaints she witnessed in her class’ group chats, Brown wrote the petition to President Mark B. Rosenberg to ban Honorlock. It received over 7,400 signatures in the span of seven months.
In the petition, Brown listed student grievances using Honorlock claiming, “the added pressure on students to meet Honorlock requirements poses a challenge for many and invades their privacy.”
Brown mentioned her father’s career in Tech and IT gave her some insight on Honorlock’s privacy violations.
“I don’t like the fact that they collect your IP address and your cookie data, and I don’t like the fact that they keep this information up to two years,” Brown shared her primary concerns.
“To me it’s a privacy issue. They have a video of my whole room, a video of me, my ID. To me it was a lot of extra to just take a test.” she added.
According to Honorlock’s official student privacy statement, the browser extension was a deliberate decision to ensure data security, “to keep users from having to install invasive technology that interacts with your computer at the operating system level.”
However, Brown pointed out in the petition to ban Honorlock, that it required the use of Google Chrome, a web browser repeatedly accused of selling users’ private information.
“They’re taking our data,” Brown mentioned to one of her professors who required the use of Honorolock this fall, “He specifically told us to use our school email then to delete the extension right after the test, so they must know that there is some invasion of privacy going on.”
The professor acknowledged the potential threat of data security while continuing to require the use of Honorlock which fueled greater student outrage and prompted Brown to get student government involved on the issue.
On their own, SGA does not have the administrative power to mandate a ban on the use of Honorlock without direct intervention from the Administration and FIU Division of Information Technology.
In order to enforce the resolution, Magee is working with the administration to, “communicate with faculty and we were able to work on stuff and try to come up with some ideas on how to implement this semester.”
Although there has yet to be any direct action taken to remove Honorlock from remote courses, Magee hopes to meet with FIU administration as the semester continues.
“We are going to see what happens in the coming weeks, as we continue to have meetings, but it’s a really positive outlook.” added the senator.