Former student sues Lewis University over exam software

Lawsuit claims test tool collects students’ biometric data without informed consent

Lewis University in Joliet, Ill.

A Jane Doe plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Lewis University that claims the school requires students to use an online exam tool that unlawfully collects their biometric data without their written and informed consent.

The Dec. 15 lawsuit said the woman, identified only as Jane Doe, filed the complaint on behalf of herself and “all others similarly situated” against the Romeoville university. The lawsuit claimed Lewis violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, a state law that prohibits private entities from collecting people’s biometric data without consent.

The woman was a student at Lewis between 2015 and 2019 when she was required to use software called Respondus Monitor for exams, the lawsuit said.

Respondus Monitor uses students’ webcams to record and analyze their exam sessions, according to Respondus’ website. The company describes the software as a “fully automated proctoring solution that enables students to take online exams at any time of the day or night, without pre-scheduling.”

The woman claimed in the lawsuit that when she agreed to use the software for an exam, she “did not know Respondus Monitor would collect and analyze her biometric identifiers or biometric information prior to and during the exam.”

The suit said she also did not give “informed written consent” for her biometric information to be “stored, used or disseminated.” The woman claimed Lewis has possession of the biometric data from students who use Respondus Monitor.

Respondus’ website said the company staff does not store biometric profiles on servers or sell or share data.

The lawsuit said the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to cease in-person instruction, move to remote learning and facilitate remote tests by using software such as Respondus Monitor.

The lawsuit said there has been “an outcry among students and faculty about the use of online proctoring software and services.”

“Petitions have sprung up across college campuses nationwide demanding a ban on online proctoring,” the lawsuit said.