UW-Madison Disables Proctoring Software Amid Complaints

Students said the program didn't recognize darker skin tones.

Pedestrian bridge over Park Street, Madison, Wis.
Pedestrian bridge over Park Street, Madison, Wis.
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The University of Wisconsin-Madison disabled part of its digital anti-cheating software last month after students complained the program didn't recognize their darker skin tones.

The university started using anti-cheating software called Honorlock last summer after classes went online, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Sunday. The software marks suspicious behavior, such as stepping away from the computer, and can lock down student browsers, record faces and scan students' room.

UW-Madison shut down Honorlock's exam pause feature on March 11 after three students said the feature activated after failing to recognize their darker skin tone. Honorlock officials said students were looking down or away from their webcams during a test and the software paused the exam because it couldn't detect any facial features. They said it had nothing to do with skin tone.

“We're disappointed that someone would attempt to make this connection, and we have no indication it is a valid concern,” Honorlock spokeswoman Tess Mitchell said.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut led a group of lawmakers' efforts last year to gather more information about online testing companies, said such systems have the power to accuse students of cheating and more transparency is needed.

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