This could set significant precedent.
A federal judge just sided with a Cleveland State University student, finding that anti-cheating software used by the institution that scanned his room was unconstitutional, NPR reports.
The creepy third-party "e-proctoring" tool, called Honorlock, asks students to get a virtual scan of students' rooms via a webcam.
The decision is significant, and could serve as a precedent for millions of students in the country. It's particularly relevant because the use of tools like Honorlock has taken off since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many more students taking exams remotely than before.
Now, US district court judge J. Philip Calabrese decided in chemistry student Aaron Ogletree's favor, arguing that these room scans go against his Fourth Amendment rights.
"Mr. Ogletree's privacy interest in his home outweighs Cleveland State's interests in scanning his room," Calabrese's ruling reads. "Accordingly, the Court determines that Cleveland State's practice of conducting room scans is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment."
Civil rights attorney Matthew Besser called the decision a "landmark" in a blog post, writing that it was the "first in the nation to hold that the Fourth Amendment protects students from unreasonable video searches of their homes before taking a remote test."
Ogletree's complaints mirror those filed by other privacy advocates, who have long argued tools like Honorlock unfairly invade students' privacy.
Cleveland State University, however, maintained that remote virtual room scans don't amount to "searches" and that Ogletree could've opted out, resulting in getting zero credit for the exam.
But that defense didn't hold with Calabrese arguing that "rooms scans go where people otherwise would not, at least not without a warrant or an invitation."
"Nor does it follow that room scans are not searches because the technology is 'in general public use,'" he added in his verdict.