Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


1.2 COMPUTER AND INFORMATION SCIENCE, Computer Sciences, Information Science

Publication Details

Presented at Ethicomp 2021, 19 International Conference on the Ethical and Social Impacts of ICT Logroño, La Rioja, Spain June 30 - July 2, 2021


The impact of COVID-19 has been widespread and far-reaching, and one domain that has experienced severe disruption is the university education sector, where the entire apparatus of teaching and assessment for many programmes of study had to move on-line in a matter of days. This was accomplished notably through enormous co-operation between staff and students in educational institutions (Adnan and Anwar, 2020). The negative economic impacts of COVID-19 on university students has been highlighted in terms of poor access to online resources, delayed graduation and lost internships with this effect felt more keenly by students from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Aucejo, 2020). However, an issue that has been less reported is how the crisis highlighted mismatches between on the one hand the regulations and requirements of the educational institutions, and on the other hand the privacy rights (and needs) of the students.

In this research we are investigating the challenges associated with the potential for students and teachers to inadvertently share aspects of their private lives as part of on-line teaching and assessment, as well as the ethical challenges of monitoring students during exams. Some educational institutes have used software for monitoring students during assessments (called e-Proctoring systems), and these systems lead to a range of potential ethical concerns, particularly if the systems employ facial recognition systems and/or artificial intelligence systems to detect potential malfeasance.

One voice that hasn’t been included in this discussion heretofore is the student voice, so this research includes the design and development of the WebCam Usage Student Survey (WUSS), and a group of computer science students (N=44) were asked for their opinions on a wide range of privacy issues (as these student have some idea on the potential pitfalls of using theses types of technologies). Their views are varied and nuanced, and their perspective in combination with the literature will be used to develop a series of guidelines for both general webcam usage, as well as for the use of e-Proctoring systems.

This issue is one of a rapidly growing number of computer ethics issues that have been emerging recently, to such an extent that a number of third-level institutes across Europe are collaborating to explore some of these key ethical challenges, and to develop educational content that is both based on pedagogically sound principles, and motivated by international exemplars of best practice to highlight these matters as part of the Erasmus+ Ethics4EU project (O’Sullivan and Gordon, 2020).