MUMBAI: In the first such reported case in the city, at least nine girl students from a premier management institute in the suburbs have alleged harassment by online proctors, raising serious concern about data sharing and privacy in times of online exams amid the pandemic.

The students, whose semester-end exams started on January 2, said they were shocked when persons claiming to be their exam invigilators stalked them online and posted comments about their physical appearance.

The institute has taken cognisance of the incident, but is yet to initiate independent action. Students are upset about their contact details being shared with the agency proctoring the exams. Screenshots of messages shared by the students went viral on Thursday.

To ensure the sanctity of online exams, institutes may be forced to rely on external sources in these difficult times. But it is also important to ensure there is a thorough background check done on the companies that are being roped in to conduct these online exams.

Students who took to social media about the harassment received mails from the institute’s controller of examinations and the proctoring agency. One of the victims told TOI the proctors sent messages on WhatsApp and that they may have managed to get their phone numbers from the college identity cards. Another student took to social media to say a person claiming to be her exam invigilator sent her messages commenting on her looks and hair. A message from a student said, ‘While it is important to maintain the integrity of exams during such tough times, colleges need to make sure they hire trusted proctors after a proper background check.’

Students from the institute have been protesting against online exams. Speaking to TOI, a student said only nine cases have come to the fore, but there are likely to be more. “No girl should have been put through this. We have been told action has been taken against the accused proctors and they have been debarred,” said the student.

An institute official said they had received mails from students regarding proctors invading their privacy, “which is absolutely unacceptable from our end and against the institute’s code of conduct and values”. The institute claimed it had raised the issue with the agency which was taking stringent steps, including police action. “Due diligence was followed while engaging proctors. However, there were unscrupulous elements that crept into the system. Another step which has already been taken is to hire female proctors for forthcoming exams,” said the statement, adding personal data of students captured by the service provider would be deleted. At the time of going to press it was not known if an FIR had been filed.Source link