Privacy and Final Exam Signing Sheets (31 Dec 2015)

Almost two years ago, I posted a blog (here) complaining that Carleton University repeatedly and knowingly breaches confidentiality of its students by and through its final exam signing sheets. Students at regularly scheduled final exams are required to write their name, signature, and last four digits of their Carleton identification number on this signing sheet. See the latest version of the signing sheet, below. The problem is that the 30th student gets to see the names of the prior 29 students who signed the sheet, even though the previous 29 students did not give their voluntary consent to have their identities disclosed to their peers. Students seem to be coerced into disclosing their own identities to other students in the class. Divulging identities of students seems to constitute a prima facie FIPPA violation (Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act). While I am not a lawyer, section 42 of that law seems to preclude use of Carleton’s final exam signing sheet with more than one name on it. Curiously, Carleton has a final exam signing sheet for use by just a single student, a form that is seemingly only used by the McIntyre Exam Centre.

In my decade at Carleton, there have only been two very minor improvements to this personal privacy travesty. First, the final exam signing sheet now only requires the last four digits of the Carleton identification number, not the remaining digits. Second, instructors can opt out of use of this thirty-signature form. Unfortunately and perversely, students cannot opt out of signing this form. While Carleton University has been well aware of this breach of privacy of virtually all of its roughly 25,000 undergraduate students, Carleton has effectively done nothing to remedy the problem, even though a fix would be easy, such as purchasing optical scanners to read student identification cards. Scanning student identification cards may also be possible via an inexpensive cellphone app (maybe this app, but I have no expertise in such matters). Given the huge sums of money that the university expends on self-promotion (e.g. printing multiple twenty-foot tall portraits of almost famous people associated with the university), I hope Carleton could throw a few dollars at this genuine privacy problem. And I really hope that Carleton is proactive about this remedy and – god forbid – not simply wait to react to a possible class action lawsuit.

Signing sheet (2015).jpg






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