Letter: ISU and student privacy protections


Letter writer Ryan Hurley advocates for change in usage of testing lockdown browsers. 

Ryan Hurley

Looking at the importance of technology in our lives, we can see that it is not only necessary but essential. Additionally, freedom of privacy is a right we all value and cherish. This privacy has increasingly become limited with technology, where our every action is watched, analyzed and stored. Recently, due to COVID-19, we have seen test-taking browsers such as Honorlock and Lockdown Browser gaining prominence on campus. These browsers are massively invasive of privacy and should be removed from Iowa State.

Some restrictions seem relatively reasonable. For example, you cannot access other tabs while taking an exam. However, many other features have harmed student privacy, especially the room recording scans required before any exams, the ID requirement, etc. These seem incredibly intrusive — because they are. Students across America have voiced these concerns to administrators and professors, but little has come out of the work.

In an interview with “The Spectator,” the Deputy Director of Fight for the Future (electronic rights organization) said, “This software is essentially malware or academic stalkerware. It’s deeply invasive and allows school administrators to violate students’ privacy rights, but it’s also an enormous security threat. Universities are setting themselves up for massive student data breaches, lawsuits and worse if they continue in this direction of forcing students to install dangerous surveillance software on their computers in order to get an education.” Indeed, this is a damning indictment of the technology by an expert in the field.

The university should take steps to ensure the privacy of students while minimizing the possibility of cheating. Professors can do this by taking steps to mitigate the want of cheating, things such as having study packets, giving a wide enough window to take exams and more. Students deserve privacy, and we should give it to them.

Ryan Hurley is a junior in marketing and the president of Iowa State College Republicans.