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Fri Feb 20, 2015, 06:43 PM

Rutgers online facial recognition system presents major privacy risk

Are you planning on taking an online course at Rutgers next semester? Then you might need to download University-sanctioned software that will track your facial identity, photo ID and browser activity. According to an article published on New Brunswick Today by Daniel Munoz this past weekend, Rutgers University has implemented a recognition suite called ProctorTrack for online courses. ProctorTrack records face, knuckle and personal identification details during online courses. Munoz also notes that the system “keeps track of all activity in the monitor, browser, webcam and microphone” throughout each session.


The three-point verification system that the system, for instance, forces students to record their facial features, knuckles and photo ID on camera. However, many students are unsure if the ProctorTrack system efficiently secures recorded student data. The system’s security measures are not particularly clear. Combined with ProctorTrack’s young age — the system was literally patented several weeks ago — potential security vulnerabilities within the ProctorTrack system remain an open question.

Rutgers also seems unaware that visually recording personal identification over the Internet is a major risk. Even if ProctorTrack is completely protected, there is no way to guarantee that a student’s computer was not compromised by webcam monitoring exploitation software, such as Remote Access Tools, prior to ProctorTrack’s use. Exposing personal identification over online webcam for verification purposes may have dangerously unintended consequences.

Likewise, ProctorTrack allows instructors to monitor webcam activity during online courses and record video reports for later review. However, recording students in the privacy of their homes presents major concerns. Are students comfortable knowing that every moment of their classroom attendance is being monitored for future review? What if an instructor steals a student’s likeness or stores photos and images of their in-class attendance? The potential for stealing student identities or replicating personal identification information shown on camera is a serious concern within the ProctorTrack system.

Rutgers University’s new program also uses a “behavior observation tool,” which monitors student browser activity throughout an active session. While this feature is intended to prevent students from using the Internet to cheat on exams, the power that this grants instructors is extremely invasive. If a student accidentally leaves a personal or embarrassing website in their browser during an online course, a ProctorTrack instructor might stumble upon their activity. Monitoring student browser history is extremely invasive and might not be common knowledge to many students utilizing the ProctorTrack software.


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