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Online exam proctoring software during the pandemic: The quest to minimize student privacy risks


University of Ottawa



Project leader(s)

Céline Castets-Renard, Professor, Faculty of Law – Civil Law Section, University of Ottawa


This project examines how, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many universities used exam proctoring tools to compensate for the inability to conduct in-person exams.

The researchers found that while many surveillance processes and companies are operating in the industry, most tools use artificial intelligence techniques such as data mining and facial recognition to detect suspicious behaviour that could constitute cheating.

These companies use the personal information collected as part of their mission to monitor university exams. They also use it for secondary purposes of improving artificial intelligence tools. To do this, they obtain consent from students, but the conditions under which it is collected are not conducive to the expression of free, clear and individual consent. In addition, the separation of public and private sector privacy laws makes it difficult to characterize these outsourcing companies. Enforcing their potential liability as a principal under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is difficult in the context of enforcing provincial public sector laws.

Furthermore, this project demonstrates that control over the conditions of data collection and retention is made more difficult by the fact that many technology companies are U.S.-based and subject to U.S. law, and even require the transfer of data to the United States.

The researchers make five recommendations to address these issues, which can be found in the conclusion of the research report.

Project deliverables are available in the following language(s)



OPC-funded project

This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.

Contact information

Céline Castets-Renard, Doctor of Private Law
Full Professor
Faculty of Law
University of Ottawa
57 Louis-Pasteur, Office 311
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 1M1
Tel: 613-562-5800, ext. 3247
Email: Céline Castets-Renard
SSRN´s eLibrary
Twitter: @CastetsRenard

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