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Ruling against room scans may prompt changes in online monitored testing at ASU

A federal judge in Ohio determined student room scans invasive and in violation of the Fourth Amendment

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The ruling in Ogletree v. Cleveland State University, made on Aug. 22, has opened up discussion on how online testing at ASU will continue.


A ruling against the use of room scans at Cleveland State University may change how ASU conducts monitored online tests through services like Honorlock

The Ogletree v. Cleveland State University case decided in a federal district court in Ohio concluded on Aug. 22, with the judge determining that room scans during online test proctoring were invasive and violated the Fourth Amendment, and therefore unconstitutional. 

Kahlea Cranford, manager of information technology in the University technology office said in an email on Aug. 30 that the University is working with the Office of General Counsel on this topic.

In January 2021, CSU student Aaron Ogletree disputed a policy in his chemistry class syllabus that allowed proctors and professors the right to ask students during an exam to show their surroundings and screen via microphone or private chat. 

Ogletree argued that remote room scans can be considered Fourth Amendment violations because students have a subjective expectation of privacy in their houses, especially their bedrooms.

Catherine O’Donnell, an ASU history professor, tweeted about the ruling once she heard about it. 

“There’s just much more of an expectation of privacy in the modern world than there was in the early modern world or in the 18th century-so I would not have thought we're moving away from valuing privacy,” O’Donnell said. “I do understand right that students film themselves and they post information about themselves, but those are curated moments,” she said.

O'Donnell said that students should set their own limits on what they find comfortable sharing, not the school.

Jessica Berch, a lecturer for the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, considers the trial more complex than a violation of privacy, also seeing it as an issue of discretion.

"I would want there to be a clear policy in the syllabus that would be available to students before they enrolled in the class for at least at the outset of class so that they can make a decision about whether they want this sort of monitoring of their exam before drop out is over," Berch said.

Privacy invasions are not the only issue proposed with Honorlock, as students have been flagged due to specific body or head movements and lighting issues. The program uses Rekognition, a software that identifies facial features and emotion to detect potential "signs of cheating."

Kysha Farnsworth, a senior double majoring in marketing and business administration, was flagged by Honorlock during a management class test due to her room light dimming. 

Once Farnsworth received a flag from Honorlock, she was required to meet with an academic officer. She could either accept the accusation of academic dishonesty and get a zero on the exam or take the accusation to trial. If she was found guilty, she could be given a zero in the class.

"I've never been cited for academic dishonesty. I've never been cited for like anything. The one time that I did get cited for this year, I was just doing the exam exactly like I've done in every single recorded exam since freshman year," Farnsworth said.

Though she won the trial, the process lasted two months before W.P. Carey Dean, Ohad Kadan came to a decision.

ASU has yet to acknowledge whether or not this ruling will affect its policy regarding Honorlock use.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the court ruling was against Honorlock. The story was updated on Sept. 8 at 8:30 p.m. to correct the error and include information on where the case was decided.

Edited by Jasmine Kabiri, Grace Copperthite, Kristen Apolline Castillo and Greta Forslund.


Reach the reporter at caera@asu.edu and follow @CaeraLearmonth on Twitter.

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Caera Learmonth

Caera Learmonth is a full-time reporter for the Community and Culture desk. She was previously the Executive Editor of her high school newspaper and has taken journalism programs at the School of the New York Times and University of Southern California. 


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