Earlier this month, a podcast episode was released by Gettin’ Air with Terry Greene, featuring Ian Linkletter. Linkletter is a educational technology librarian, currently being sued by Proctorio, a surveillance technology company. The episode addresses his transition to librarianship from educational technology, and he emphasizes the need for librarians to critically engage with the tools and technologies they use, support, and promote, which increasingly capitalize on students’ data without their permission. Proctorio was and continues to be used at colleges and universities to administer tests online, unethically tracking eye movements to identify potential cheating that causes extreme mental and health issues reactions for students, including weeping from stress and urinating at their desks because they could not look away from their screens. The software was quickly adopted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the initial rush, “We weren’t getting full ethical approval, full privacy approval.” From the transcript:
“I think that there’s a disconnect right now between people that are entering the field and what the field actually is like at a lot of the larger institutions where you’re not necessarily just supporting educational technology, but you might be supporting more corporate technology. You might be supporting more surveillance technology than educational technology. And I guess, I guess, my advice to people would be that your voice really matters.”
Digital Humanities librarianship regularly requires evaluation of new tools and software, and in this case, Linkletter focuses on the ethical implications and real consequences of surveillance software. This is an important case, demonstrating how important it is to evaluate tools that aid digital humanities research, teaching, and pedagogy, as technology vendors carelessly and increasingly capitalize on user data to the detriment of individuals and society.