Online Exams And Monitoring Softwares: Breach of Privacy Rights?

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Virtual schooling is the trend in the education space and it is most likely here to stay. It follows then that students will also be assessed online. To ensure that the assessment results are  credible and a true reflection of the students academic standing, there must be monitoring. Afterall, this is the reason for the invigilation of exams in a physical setting.

When this invigilation is done electronically using software, it is called remote proctoring. The exam itself is referred to as a proctored exam.

However, we are concerned about the privacy rights of students who take online exams whilst being monitored through a proctoring software.

The Nature of a Proctored Exam


Usually, proctored exams are timed. The software monitors your computer desktop, webcam, video and audio. Afterwards, the data gathered is then transferred to the service provider for a review. 
There are a couple of proctoring softwares employed by educational institutions as well as corporation institutions in the course of their recruitment exercises. Some of them include; proctoring, examsoft, RPNow, Disamina, ProctoCL amongst others. The forgoing softwares are exciting innovations that is needed to drive the data economy.

Nevertheless, there are privacy issues that might arise in the course of using a proctoring software to administer assessment tests.

Right to Privacy in Nigeria

Sec 37 of 1999 Constitution provides

 “The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, right to telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby private and guaranteed and protected”.

 

The right to privacy basically means that individuals are entitled to interact and develop a private sphere for interaction with others free from arbitary state intervention and from excessive unsolicited intervention by uninvited individuals. Thus, we can say that the right to privacy is an invaluable right because it reinforces other rights like the freedom of expression, information and association. It is at the epicenter of safeguarding and protecting the dignity of mankind.

E- Monitoring regime and Privacy rights in Nigeria


In March 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council called on all states to review their procedures, practices and legislations with regards to the surveillance of communications, their interception and the collection of personal data. This also includes mass surveillance, interception and collection. The foregoing is to uphold the right to privacy as well as to ensure that states implement all their obligations under International Human Rights law.

In Nigeria, there are two pieces of legislation that authorizes the surveillance of communications in Nigeria.-

  • The Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011
  • The Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015.

Unfortunately, both legislations do not comply with International principles on communication survellance. For instance, The Guidelines for the Provision of Internet Services issued by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), allows internet service providers to retain internet service related information, including user identification, content of user messages, traffic for a minimum period of 12months

The above provision on data retention contravenes the internationally recognised principles that survellance policies and practices must observe by virtue of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communication Surveillance. Some of them include:-

  1. Legality
  2. Necessity
  3. Proportionality
  4. Judicial Authorization
  5. Transparency
  6. User Notification amongst many others


It is worthy to note that Online Proctoring examination services must conform to the above mentioned international principles so as to prevent breach of the students and/or applicant’s privacy rights. 

Monitoring Softwares Can cause Breach of Privacy Rights

Monitoring softwares can be a catalyst for the breach of privacy rights.
Therefore, there must be a legal framework with extensive provisions regulating proctoring and use of monitoring softwares.

Hence, User notification is also very important because if the student in question is ignorant of the fact that they are under surveillance, sensitive personal attributes like disability will be captured by the software and sent to the service providers for onward transmission to their respective clients.

Furthermore, data retention of such sensitive personal attributes is a gross breach of the individual’s right to privacy. 
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what do think about e-monitoring and e-survellaince in Nigeria? Are privacy rights threatened? Let us know what you think via the comment section. Read up on Spotlight on Capital Offences in Nigeria

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