Not In Our Backyard: NU Faces Lawsuit

March 26, 2021

As reported by a student reporter, Waverly Long, of The Daily Northwestern, the university is facing a lawsuit accusing the school of improperly capturing and storing students’ biometric data. The lawsuit was filed in late January by an anonymous junior, attesting that Northwestern violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Biometric data & its regulations

Biometrics can simply be defined as the analysis of people’s unique physical and behavioral characteristics; the technology is mainly used for identification. The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) was enacted to protect residents from companies that collect this type of data. The law says that companies must gain explicit permission and fully inform users.

The Northwestern lawsuit

  • In this age of remote learning, many Northwestern classes have been utilizing online test proctoring systems, such as Respondus and Examity.
  • The complaint alleges that through these programs, Northwestern has been problematically storing “facial recognition data, facial detection data, recorded patterns of keystrokes, eye monitoring data, gaze monitoring data, and camera and microphone recordings.”
  • Students do not have the ability to opt-out of these programs. They’re also left in the dark about how the data collected is being used.

Calls to bad online test proctoring software

Across universities in the United States, many others have pointed out the invasive nature of this software. The lawsuit mentions petitions currently circulating at several institutions, and references this Forbes article, further highlighting the privacy concerns at stake.

Further reading

Check out the Northwestern Daily’s reporting here.