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No Honor in Honorlock

If you have a college class this year, you have most likely heard of Honorlock. It's an online proctoring device used to administer online tests to college students. Some questions have been raised about this extension. What does it do? How does it proctor the test? How safe is it? These questions can be answered by reading the website and description in the Chrome web store, and they do not sound promising. I think Honorlock is untrustworthy, intrusive, and should not be required to take tests.

Before adding Honorlock, I went to the website to see what it was all about. I was just curious about it and had no idea what I was about to learn. The first thing you see when you scroll down the website is a list titled "exclusive features," and under it, you can find several things Honorlock does while you take your test. The one I will be addressing is multi-device detection.

One of the exclusive features, multi-device detection, immediately raises an eyebrow. After some reading, I found that Honorlock will mine data from any other device connected to the same network you are connected to. The site reads, "We’re proud to have the industry’s first and only technology to detect cell phone, tablet, and laptop use while a student is taking an assessment. Our patented system can detect when these devices are accessing test bank content during an exam, and we capture a screen recording of the secondary device to provide evidence in the event of a violation." This is an invasion of privacy for two reasons. First, Honorlock doesn't have to be downloaded on a device for data to be taken from it. Secondly, and more importantly, Honorlock does not ask for permission from other devices to do this. The recordings from other devices can be shown to the professors who gave the exam, and Honorlock can keep the data they found for future use. Data can be taken to be shown to other parties without permission. How can this be moral, or even legal?

After reading through the website, I moved on to the description found in the Chrome web store. At first, I saw things I had already read. Then, I found something that I couldn't believe wasn't on the website! In small font and all caps, it says "read and change all the data on the websites you visit." When installing Honorlock, you're giving permission for it to do exactly that. Honorlock can go through all the websites you have visited and can flag certain sites if it thinks the site helps you cheat. What is the point of going through the data you have for these sites if you don't even have tabs open during a test? Honorlock forces you to close all tabs before a test, so there isn't any way you could use a website to cheat. Therefore, this another major invasion of privacy.

Last but not least, I have to share my own personal experiences with Honorlock. There are some things you must do before taking a test that isn't mentioned on the website or description. First, it requires you to take a scan of a personal ID of some sort, whether it be your college student ID or driving permit/license. Then, it will do a face scan so it can track your eyes during the test and stop the test if your face goes out of the camera. Lastly, the thing that makes me most uncomfortable, is a 360 degree scan of the room you're in, including your workspace. I believe these things can be changed by the teacher because for some teachers I have been required to do all three, and other I have been required to do only one or two. However, Honorlock will keep a record of all of these things.

I understand it is important to ensure that students aren't cheating and no one is helping students cheat, but this is outrageous. There are ways to take online tests without securing so much personal information that people can easily access.

I used the Honorlock website and the Chrome web store as resources to write this article.