Gabe Teninbaum, a professor at Suffolk University Law School, is asking on ExamSoft to repair a critical bug with its test-taking software program: failure to acknowledge faces. It’s an issue that may delay check takers — or bar them from beginning their exams altogether — and per studies, it disproportionately impacts individuals with darkish pores and skin tones.

ExamSoft’s software program data college students whereas they full distant exams and displays for indicators of educational dishonesty. Teninbaum’s report addresses an ExamSoft characteristic referred to as ExamID, which goals to confirm that test-takers are who they are saying they’re. The first time a scholar logs into their examination portal, they add a photograph of themselves (their “baseline picture”); they’re then prompted to take one other selfie earlier than starting future exams, which the software program checks towards their authentic photograph.

Research has discovered that facial-recognition algorithms constantly make extra errors in figuring out Black faces than they do white ones. And whereas these research didn’t deal with ExamSoft particularly, it doesn’t look like an exception. Back in September, a number of non-white exam-takers informed the New York Times that the software program couldn’t determine them because of “poor lighting” — an issue that Teninbaum, who has gentle pores and skin, wasn’t in a position to replicate.

The @ExamSoft software program cannot “acknowledge” me because of “poor lighting” though I’m sitting in a properly lit room. Starting to assume it has nothing to do with lighting. Pretty certain all of us predicted their facial recognition software program would not work for individuals of colour. @DiplomaPriv4All

— Alivardi Khan (@uhreeb) September 8, 2020

@ExamSoft I FINALLY found out ON MY OWN 4 hours later ( nonetheless on maintain for an EXAM SOFT chat rep) HOW TO GET TO MY MOCK EXAM… ONLY TO BE TOLD THE SYSTEM CANT RECOGNIZE ME. I AM IN A BOARD ROOM WITH ALL OF THE LIGHTS TURNED ON AND THE SUN WAS STILL UP. MAKE IT MAKE SENSE. pic.twitter.com/7K3yKT1y4n

— Futureesq1990 (@futureesq1990) September 17, 2020

Early this fall, Teninbaum got down to discover a repair. He believes such errors add undue stress to an already worrying time interval. “These are college students who’re about to take a high-stakes examination with rather a lot on the road, and that’s very unwelcome,” Teninbaum mentioned in an interview with The Verge.

“Any time you go into an examination you simply need to deal with the examination,” he added. “You don’t need to really feel like you have got these added challenges.”

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Teninbaum additionally believes that optics matter; colleges owe it to marginalized college students to not depend on a class of software program that’s recognized to be discriminatory. “Students should really feel that their establishment is doing what it may well to guard their rights, pursuits, and dignity,” he says.

In his report, which is forthcoming in The Journal of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Law, Teninbaum outlines the workaround he discovered.

He means that colleges assign each scholar an equivalent generic, baseline picture. Then, he proposes, they need to ask ExamSoft to allow “deferred identification,” a characteristic constructed into the software program that enables college students to proceed with exams even when identification fails. This characteristic is principally hidden — it’s not talked about wherever on ExamSoft’s web site (at the least, not that I might discover). Only ExamSoft can flip it on.

In tandem, these tweaks will trigger ExamSoft to misidentify each test-taker. But they’ll nonetheless be capable of proceed with their exams — ExamSoft will ship the selfies to the varsity afterwards, and instructors can manually confirm everybody. “We know who our college students are,” Teninbaum says. “We can ensure that the scholars are who they are saying they’re and keep away from subjecting college students to those types of challenges.”

He additionally means that ExamSoft make the “deferred identification” characteristic accessible to clients. “The reporter urges ExamSoft to construct this right into a characteristic by which establishments can merely toggle on/off, thereby bypassing ExamID till such time that the know-how matures into one that doesn’t discriminate,” his report reads.

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Teninbaum hopes these modifications will final past the COVID-19 pandemic, and can assist college students really feel extra snug taking distant lessons. “It’s going to be a rising drawback as individuals get increasingly on-line for his or her training,” he says.

Even so, he’s solely mounted a part of the issue. Students have skilled a spread of hiccups with ExamSoft’s proctoring software program. Over 3,000 individuals who used the platform to take California’s bar examination in October had their movies flagged for potential rule violations — almost 36 % of candidates who took the net examination. Users reported audio points, and different technical glitches as properly.

A gaggle of six US senators — together with Richard Blumenthal, Elizabeth Warren, and Corey Booker — wrote an open letter to ExamSoft in December, highlighting potential harms to college students of colour and college students with disabilities, amongst quite a few different considerations.

ExamSoft didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.