A federal judge ruled this week in favor of a student at Cleveland State University (CSU) in Ohio, who filed a lawsuit claiming that a scan conducted of his dorm room before an online exam was unconstitutional, according to NPR.
Part of a remote proctoring system, the inspection was found to violate the student’s Fourth Amendment rights, which shield U.S. citizens against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
“Holding otherwise, as Defendant argues, raises even more difficult questions about what legal standard, if any, governs the scans and the potential consequences of such a ruling in other areas of life and the law that technology touches,” U.S. District Court Judge J. Philip Calabrese wrote.
The college student, Aaron Ogletree, rebuffed a school policy that stated remote testing participants in General Chemistry II may have to show their work area either before, during, or after course examinations. The policy was deleted from the class syllabus three days after Ogletree submitted his complaint.
However, a couple of hours before Ogletree was due to take the assessment the following month, CSU alerted him that the proctor planned to examine his testing environment beforehand. Ogletree expressed concerns, explaining that there were confidential documents in his room, such as 1099 forms, that he would not be able to conceal before the exam start time. Ogletree, who is still enrolled at CSU, ultimately agreed to the virtual scan, which lasted between 10 and 60 seconds, according to court documents.
Judge Calabrese ruled “Cleveland State’s practice of conducting room scans” to be “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” mandating that the university discuss possible solutions with the student’s legal team and offer an update next month. Represented by Ohio’s attorney general David Yost, CSU is now weighing its next steps.
Ogletree’s attorney Matthew Besser said the lawsuit is likely the first of its kind nationwide and could serve as a model for future digital privacy cases.