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No Social Media Magic—Just the Truth

A marketing consultant emailed me out of the blue a couple months ago. He sent me a screenshot of the first page of search results on Google when he typed in the name of our company. A third of them were links to articles about lawsuits filed against Proctorio during the pandemic. He wanted to know if I'd like to pay him to get those search results "fixed." I thought about it for a second.

The answer was no.

Legal disputes are a part of doing business. They're not anyone's favorite part, except for our lawyers perhaps, but they come with the territory. They're not for the faint of heart, but sometimes it's the only path. We've been sued a few times. Those lawsuits included serious, but demonstrably false, allegations. These are fights we're willing to take on. This company is worth it. Our employees are worth it. And the test takers we serve are worth it.

The first case involved a first year student who accused Proctorio of collecting data on test takers 24/7, routing traffic through our servers and using facial recognition. None of these allegations were true. This case also included a false and disgusting accusation that Proctorio used its service for prurient reasons to spy on students. Tasteless and, in the shadow of Pizzagate, a dangerous charge to throw around online.

The bigger concern was the claim made by this same student that Proctorio uses "racist algorithms to detect faces." This was based on a now debunked study that used a completely improper data set to test our algorithm. This study had several fatal flaws, including that it made no attempt to mimic the experience of taking a test online. For example, not a single photo was taken by a webcam. How could this possibly be used to gauge the efficacy of our model? Despite being discredited, this study is somehow still cited as an excuse to lob unfounded allegations against us, even before the U.S. Congress. A third party, BABL AI, reviewed the study and found that its foundation was "not appropriate." Now, not only has the lawsuit been dismissed, but this student has acknowledged that the study is "flawed" and that it's based on an "unrepresentative data set." Unfortunately, it took litigation to set the record straight.

The second case concerned Illinois' Biometric Information Privacy Act, commonly known as BIPA. Without going into too much legalese, Proctorio was accused of collecting biometric information from test takers who use our service. To be clear, unlike several of our competitors, Proctorio does not—and has never—collected biometric information from test takers. We do not do that, plain and simple. Because we had nothing to hide, we allowed the other side to examine our source code—they didn't have to take our word for it, they could see for themselves. To no surprise, the other side was unable to find any evidence that Proctorio collected biometric information (because we don't). We are transparent about what we do and don't do—just read our website: we value our test takers' privacy and go above and beyond industry standards to protect it. In addition to using end to end encryption, which ensures all test taker data is secure and that no one from Proctorio can access it, we do not require test takers to provide additional Personally Identifiable Information (known as PII) to access an exam. Ultimately, the case against Proctorio was dismissed. Other companies in this space, however, remain defendants in BIPA cases.

The third, and most recent, case was filed and then quickly dismissed by the plaintiff. On July 11th, a company brought separate lawsuits against Proctorio and a number of other companies for patent infringement of their plagiarism product. The claims against Proctorio lacked both a legal and factual basis, which Proctorio communicated to the plaintiff. Less than two months from the initial filing, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed its claims against Proctorio.

Each of these cases, which began with outlandish claims—data harvesting, illegal collection of personal information, IP theft, racism, perversion—ended in dismissal. There's an old saying that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting its shoes on. In today's global digitized world, that's more true than ever, and a reminder why it's so important to fight against misinformation.

So to the marketing consultant who reaches out periodically wondering how they can work some kind of social media magic and fix our search results problem, we're doing it our way: by fighting back with the truth.

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