(Madison, Wis.) – The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) announced Friday that it will be discontinuing the option to take the bar exam online starting in February 2022 and will only allow in-person examination. When the NCBE moved to allow the online administration of the bar exam in October 2020 due to the pandemic, some states used facial recognition technology to administer the exam, which disproportionately discriminates against people of color. Lack of access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet also hindered the ability of low-income examinees to complete the exam.
“Use of biased facial recognition technology in online bar exams disproportionately burdened examinees of color. We hope this change means that the NCBE will end the use of facial recognition technology in the administration of the bar exam entirely. Facial recognition technology is disproportionately inaccurate in recognizing people of color, and women of color in particular.
“The flaws in facial recognition technology, as well as a digital divide that inhibits the ability of low-income users to access important online services, are a prime example of how novel technology can replicate systemic racism and deprive equal access to valuable economic opportunities.”
In February, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, sent a letter to the California State Bar and Examsoft, Inc., urging them to eliminate the use of facial recognition technology in the administration of the California bar exam. The national Lawyers’ Committee noted that FRT has a discriminatory impact on people of color, which may violate California law. In addition, the letter stated that there are several alternative, non-discriminatory methods that can be used to administer the exam that are used by other states.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.