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Student-Monitoring Software Company CEO Upset NBToday Recorded His Phone Interview

Company Records Video of Students Taking Online Exams, But Verificient Technologies CEO Tim Dutta Took Issue With NBT Recording Phone Conversation
Tim Dutta Verificient Technologies

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ— The CEO of a controversial software company that has come under fire over privacy concerns took issue with the fact that his February 26 phone interview with New Brunswick Today was recorded.

Verificient Technologies CEO Tim Dutta of expressed his anger over the incident in a March 6 email.

"If you recorded me, you have not asked my permission to record the conversation," Dutta wrote, incorrectly citing New Jersey's law on recording conversations.

The company's ProctorTrack anti-cheating software records video and audio of students, as well as monitors their desktop, while they take online tests at Rutgers University.

ProctorTrack also uses facial recognition technology, scanning students' ID's and knuckles for identification, and is mandated for all Mason Gross Arts Online students.  Verificient secured a patent on the technology in January.

It was during the February interview that New Brunswick Today learned about the possible expansion of the controversial anti-cheating technology to at least three other universities in New Jersey.

"There are three other schools that we're talking to right now in New Jersey that I'm aware of," Dutta told New Brunswick Today, a quote that was used in a March 5 article focusing on statements put out by the University and Verificient.

However, Dutta later denied he gave an exact number in the interview.

“I said there were several other schools we are talking to in New Jersey,” Dutta wrote in response to statements in the previous article about ProctorTracks' possible expansion.

"Unfortunately, now you are not just misrepresenting the truth, but now intentionally ignoring the truth. And misquoting me and our company to the public."

ProctorTrack became a source of debate after Rutgers senior Betsy Chao wrote a petition criticizing the adoption of the software.

Issues had come up over privacy, data retention, a $32 fee to download the software, and the lack of communication about the new requirement.

University statements elaborated on alternatives that in place for students who did not want download or use the software, including accomodations for those who do not have a required webcam.  Regardless, students would still have to end up paying the $32 fee.

Dutta broke down the entire article, sentence by sentence, claiming that he did not say the quotes attributed to him in the article. 

"This is clearly not acceptable, and I will provide you one more opportunity to fix the misjudgments of the facts - be for I decide to purse other actions."

In response to a sentence saying that Rutgers is the largest university to use ProctorTrack, Dutta wrote that "I did not say they are the largest school, that is not correct."

Dutta had also written that Verficient Technologies did not release any statements to Rutgers students regarding the adoption of ProctorTrack software. 

"Again your facts are incorrect," wrote Dutta.  "Verificient has not released any statements. Our disclosures were and still remains to the public before Rutgers University was ever a client."

However, New Brunswick Today obtained an email containing a Verificient Technologies statement in defense of ProctorTrack, a statement that came just days after New Brunswick Today first covered the story.

Dutta did not respond to a request to confirm whether the company had issued the statement, which includes links to the Verificient website, characterizing it as "our website."

In response to claims by Dutta that he had never actually said the quotes attributed to him in the article, New Brunswick Today mentioned that we had recorded the conversation, a common practice for on the record conversations both for convenience and to ensure accuracy.

"We examined our records and made a number of changes to better reflect your feedback," the author of this article responded.  "However, (our) notes and recordings show that you had in fact said the quotes which are written in the article." 

"As you are aware there laws surrounding unlawful recording of individuals in the state of New Jersey 'The consent of a least one party to any telephone communication is required to recorded it,'" Dutta said, accurately describing the law but misinterpreting it.

"So that would not be acceptable behavior from a responsible journalist."

The software company CEO was technically correct in writing that recording a conversation requires the consent of "at least one party." 

New Jersey law requires only one-party consent when it comes to recording conversations. Consent must be given to record a conversation by at least one party active in the conversation

In the case of Dutta's interview, this reporter consented to recording the conversation. 

Despite this misinterpretation of New Jersey's recording laws, Dutta and his company had repeatedly stressed the legality of ProctorTrack software. 

Several statements released by both Rutgers University and Verificient Technologies maintained that ProctorTrack conforms with privacy regulations. 

Dutta appealed to NBToday Editor Charlie Kratovil who stood behind this reporter's story.

"Now you know perhaps why Rutgers is avoiding giving a comment to Mr.Munoz," Dutta said.

"I would also like to know why I was recorded without my permission,"  Dutta said, adding, "Actually I would want of a copy of the recording as well for my record."

New Brunswick Today has not provided a copy of the recording, and has not since heard back from Dutta in more than a week.