Proctorio faces backlash after CEO breaches privacy of UBC student

The online exam proctoring software company comments on Reddit posts containing confidential information of a student

A screen capture of the Reddit post. Screenshot courtesy of Michelle Gomez via Reddit.

Written by: Paige Riding, News Writer

Online invigilation software company Proctorio sparked public privacy concerns when their CEO released chat logs between a student and a customer service representative. 

On June 26, a UBC student posted a portion of a chat log with a Proctorio support team member on Reddit, claiming that the representative “went MIA” when the Chrome extension crashed during an exam held on June 10. The photo of the chat log shows the agent responding “hi” to the student’s concerns, and nothing else. Proctorio CEO Mike Olsen later commented on the student’s post under the username u/artfulhacker with a transcript of the full conversation between the student and the agent, showing that the issue had been resolved. 

Olsen wrote, “If you’re gonna lie bro… don’t do it when the company clearly has an entire transcript of your conversation.” 

With remote learning in place at SFU, many professors are using software like Proctorio for examinations. Some SFU students have already raised privacy concerns over proctoring software. 

SEE MORE: Students raise concerns over use of proctoring software during remote exams

A Proctorio spokesperson provided the following statement to The Peak via email about the occurrence. 

“Normally, a transcript would be impossible to locate since our chat transcripts never include any personal information,” the statement began.

“However, since the student had already posted a portion of the chat transcript on Reddit, our team was able to locate the full transcript utilizing keywords found in the public screenshot the student provided. In the transcript, it was clear that the Support Agent did, in fact, respond to the student and assisted them with the technical issues they were facing.” 

The spokesperson said that Proctorio’s Social Media Team responded to the thread with a censored transcript of the conversation, only showing the agent’s responses and timestamps. It was around the time when Proctorio first responded when Olsen was tagged in the thread. 

According to the spokesperson, Olsen privately reached out to the student facing technical issues and was notified by the student that the issue was resolved directly with the professor. The response was then removed from Reddit. 

“The privacy of students is a top priority at Proctorio. Proctorio would never share any personally identifiable information, of any student, ever. Moreover, Proctorio cannot access any personally identifiable information from our servers, without student consent,” the spokesperson for Proctorio said.

The UBC student wrote in a follow-up Reddit comment that “the post was initially meant to [be] purely comedic and a display of how much I disliked using Proctorio. I am realizing now, my actions were immature and antagonistic, by proving Proctorio’s malfunction, I was also wrongfully framing Roy as incompetent, as my post was extremely misleading. Which I sincerely apologize on my behalf.”

“However, this also reveals a much deeper issue [ . . . ] Proctorio is notoriously known for being invasive, unnecessary, and as well appears to illegally violate our provincial laws on privacy,” the comment continued. 

UBC released a letter on July 3 noting that they will continue to allow professors to use Proctorio in their classes. SFU appears to continue to allow the use of the software.