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I am an undergrad student and one of my professors is saying that we will be using Examity for the final exam.

I am concerned with downloading this software on my computer for various reasons, including security (a simple look at their privacy policy is enough to warrant extreme suspicion) and privacy (although a weaker argument, it doesn't feel ok for someone to demand that they be able to watch me in my home). I also only have one computer with some files that are quite sensitive and risking this by being forced to download Examity is difficult for me to swallow.

In fact, my college (along with various others within our university) has emailed all the faculty (to the best of my knowledge) discouraging the use of Examity and other proctoring tools like this. Yet it has been 2 days since this email has gone out and my professor has not retracted the statement on the course website that we will be using Examity.

While I realize that the professor may have forgotten to take this notice down, I cannot seem to find the right words to ask her this while not seeming rude.

What actions can I take to confirm that she does not intend to use Examity? If she still intends to use it, what can I do?

UPDATE: I followed the below advice and emailed the prof detailing my concerns. A couple days after that, the professor withdrew the Examity requirements.

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    The difficulty here is the university “discourages” but does not forbid the use of such softwares. – ZeroTheHero Apr 26 at 14:25
  • Lots of technical discussion here; this has been moved to chat. – cag51 Apr 26 at 23:29
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Yet it has been 2 days since this email has gone out and my professor has not retracted the statement on the course website that we will be using Examity.

I think your concerns are reasonable. But I think you should give your professor a few more days to react. Keep in mind that professors may get thousands of emails.

You could write at a later date:

Dear Prof.,

I appreciate your efforts to promote exam integrity, but I prefer not to use Examity because I am concerned this company might take my private data. Dean Whatsit said using Examity is discouraged. May I take the exam without this software?

Sincerely,

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    I'm concerned because the exam is in a week. Would it be feasible to write the same email now given the short time span to the exam? – user760900 Apr 25 at 7:41
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    This email is better than the one shown in another response. (1) It's very short and to the point. (2) For better or worse, appealing to the authority of Dean Whatsit is a workable strategy for getting the recipient to pay attention. – Robert Dodier Apr 25 at 18:19
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    @croc7415 If I was able to take it in good faith, I would have no issue taking it at all. My problem is 3 fold in that a) it doesn't work as someone above listed ways around it, b) there is a forced invasion of privacy in my own home, and c) I have files that I cannot allow to be released in any circumstances to Examity and evidence suggested they do collect this data. – user760900 Apr 25 at 22:04
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    @croc7415 It might not be feasible to get a new computer quickly during a pandemic, even if it were free. – Anonymous Physicist Apr 26 at 1:02
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    You can boot your computer from a Linux distribution on a pen drive, and forbid Linux to have any access to your hard disk. You'd have to check that Linux supports your mic and webcam (and that Examity supports Linux) or show your professor the Examity system check prod.examity.com/systemcheck/check.aspx showing your computer doesn't support Examity - which puts the ball back in their court. – Owain Apr 26 at 17:22
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If you read my answer to this question you will see that I don’t have a fanatically pro-privacy view about such things. I do understand where your professor is coming from. On the other hand, I don’t think your objections are unreasonable. In fact they seem reasonable enough that I think emailing the professor to ask about this is quite appropriate, although by no means guaranteed to produce the outcome you want.

Here is a suggested draft email.

Dear Professor,

I am writing about the exam next week. I understand that you plan to require students taking the exam to use Examity. Were you aware of the recent guidelines from our college [insert links] and several of the other colleges at our school [insert links] strongly discouraging the use of Examity? The issue is that this service is highly problematic from the point of view of privacy and computer security, and moreover, is widely believed to be ineffective as it can be easily defeated in any number of ways by would-be cheaters, as documented, for example, here [add link].

Personally, I have several principled as well as practical objections to being required to install and run the Examity software on my home computer as a condition to being allowed to take the exam (I’d be happy to explain them in a follow-up email if that helps). Would you consider waiving this requirement or discussing an alternate arrangement that would allow me (and, ideally, all other students in the class) to take the exam without the use of this problematic service that even our campus administration disapproves of?

Just to be clear, I am an honest student and have no desire or intention to cheat.

Thanks,

user760900

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  • This is exactly the email I would like to send. However, the students are not privy to the emails the college sends to the professors and I only know this email was sent based on what other profs have said. Would it make sense to email the department chair or anyone higher up given the issued guidelines or would you recommend dealing directly with the prof? – user760900 Apr 25 at 8:34
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    I have never found a student who would write “Just to be clear, I am a dishonest student and have a desire to cheat”... – Solar Mike Apr 25 at 9:41
  • @Solar Mike: I have never found a student who would write --- Neither have I, but if you haven't gotten a lot of emails from students (especially just out of high school, not graduate students), you might be surprised at how often they will write something similar to what Dan Romik wrote at the end, so I thought it was a nice touch. – Dave L Renfro Apr 25 at 10:02
  • @user760900 if you don’t have the emails then just mention that you heard that they exist. You can also contact the department chair, I have no opinion about whether that makes sense or not. But from what you’re saying, the university has only discouraged professors from using Examity rather than forbidden it outright. So you are really at the mercy of the professor. If she decides she wants to use Examity after all, the chances that the department chair will prevent her from doing that are pretty slim. – Dan Romik Apr 25 at 17:15
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    I dunno, I think the proposed email is too long. – Robert Dodier Apr 25 at 18:20
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If you can suggest a solution to your professor rather than just a problem you might get a better outcome. Do some evidence gathering and then email your professor ccing any other relevant people involved in the administration of this exam stating that you have serious concerns about the integrity of Examity and give your reasons. Then suggest an alternative. I do not know if Moodle's safe exam browser would be preferable to you (https://docs.moodle.org/38/en/Safe_exam_browser)?

If you are worried about sensitive files on your computer then create a new user account and do all your professional work including this exam from that account. If you are really worried then get hold of a different computer with factory settings restored or where it doesn't matter if worst comes to worst and you get full on hacked (for which I guess the risk is quite low anyway, no?)

Ask your colleagues taking the exam if they are also concerned and, if some of them share your concerns, send the email from all of you or if you have a representative get them to send the email stating that it is on behalf of x number of concerned students.

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    I doubt I can suggest a better solution given that the many universities around the world are struggling with the same problem and not finding a solution. However, to some extent, I would rather let a portion of the class cheat and hope their honest friends report them than punish everyone by using Examity, a software which, based on above comments, can easily be bypassed. – user760900 Apr 25 at 7:54
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    @user760900 when you say “I would rather let a portion of the class cheat” that rather undermines the case for your petition. Frankly, no one cares that you are relatively indifferent to cheating. What matters is what the university and the professor feel about cheating, and they in fact care about it greatly and would go to great lengths to fight it. So I’d advise you to focus on the “Examity doesn’t work” argument rather than the “yeah, maybe it works, but who cares about a little more cheating in one class out of many?” vibes that you are sending off in your comments here. – Dan Romik Apr 25 at 17:28
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    @user760900 you're not alone in worrying that others will cheat with new online exam platforms (academia.stackexchange.com/questions/147978/…) but there are plenty of people who simply won't cheat on principle. You cannot know the detailed ins and outs of who might or might not cheat or what the university is doing to combat this. Focus on yourself and your work and don't try to cheat yourself. You should make this decision purely on the principle that you don't want to be a person who cheats. – croc7415 Apr 25 at 20:55
  • @DanRomik You're correct there, but I thought you were asking about my personal opinion above in an effort to understand and maybe change my opnion. Of course when I send the email, my personal opinion will not be highlighted as much I have in this post. – user760900 Apr 25 at 22:01
  • @croc7415 Of course I will not cheat, but my point is that I do not believe that enough people cheat to warrant this invasion of privacy. – user760900 Apr 25 at 22:02
2

It's being noted in the comments that programs like this often have VM-detection. If that's the case, this likely won't work.


If she still intends to use it, what can I do?

If in the end you are required to use the software, and there's no other reasonable path than to use it, consider setting up a Virtual Machine that you install the software on instead. It's basically a computer in software that is a completely separate entity from the host computer that it's running on. It can even be isolated so that it isn't able to communicate to other computers on the network, or the host computer that it's on.

You'd need two things:

  • Software to host the virtual machine.
  • An ISO of Windows (or whatever OS it requires)

For the first, I personally like VMWare. I get the Pro version free because of the school I'm enrolled in. Your school may have a similar program in place. There are likely free alternatives as well, or at least one that offers a trial period.

For the second, Microsoft offers up versions of Windows to be used for teaching/educational purposes. They can be downloaded here if your school is affiliated.

Install the Windows ISO onto the VM, run the standard Windows setup like you'd always do, and you'll have yourself a fresh, isolated computer that can be destroyed when you're done with it.

The major problem with this is there's a possibility that VMware will interfere with Examity's ability to access the webcam/other devices (if it requires such access). You'd want to test it ahead of time to ensure its working as expected.

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  • FWIW, these kinds of programs usually have anti-VM detection. – ieatpizza Apr 27 at 0:56
  • @ieatpizza Really? I admit I've never used a program like Examity before. I'll add a note. – Carcigenicate Apr 27 at 1:00

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