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Tech News

Humble Bundle Sliders will change again despite user outcry

In May, Humble Bundle angered some of its user base when it redesigned its bundle pages and removed sliders that allowed buyers to customize how the money from their purchase was used. Humble Bundle has always allowed gamers to pay what they wanted for a bundle of independent games, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to various charities.

When the sliders were removed, fans were upset because they wanted more control over how their money was used. Shortly after rolling out the removal of the sliders, Humble Bundle brought them back, stating that it had heard the response from the user base “loud and clear.” The company promised to reconsider its actions and path moving forward. It would appear that consideration is now over with Humble Bundle announcing that changes were returning to the service via a blog post.

The post published yesterday says that a new iteration of the sliders would be rolling out in mid-July to create more opportunities to support important causes. Splits for each bundle will vary, but on average, the minimum amount donated to various charities will vary between 15 and 30 percent. The new sliders will indicate any minimums to customers, and the flexibility to adjust donations will be available with every purchase of a bundle.

Humble Bundle says this change comes after ten years of having the option to lower the percentage it receives to zero. As for why it’s eliminating the user’s ability to change its percentage to zero, Humble Bundle says the PC storefront landscape has changed significantly since it launched bundles in 2010, and it has to involve “stay on mission.”

The update allows it to continue to offer “great prices” on games, books, and software while supporting charitable initiatives with every purchase. Humble Bundle says the change to sliders will allow it to continue to invest in more content to keep growing the community which it says will ultimately drive more donations for charitable causes. The company has promised to continue to create more ways to give back, including its 100 percent to charity bundles.

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Game

Resident Evil Village demo extended after fan outcry

Gone are the days when most upcoming games, especially high-profile ones, came with playable demos before launch. Game publishers these days are more careful when putting anything out to the public that fans can use against them if things don’t go their way. That’s what made the Resident Evil Village demo quite notable in this day and age, but, unfortunately, it was actually too short to even matter. Fans definitely made their displeasure known, enough for Capcom to actually relent.

Capcom is making a lot of noise about the Resident Evil franchise’s next big installation, along with other forms of the game, including a VR version. Naturally, fans of the series are quite hyped about it and looked forward to the demo of the game that’s scheduled to go live next month on all supported platforms. Of course, there are limits to such demos but the biggest and perhaps most atrocious is for how long it will be available.

To its credit, Capcom was at least upfront about the fact that the 60-minute demo for Resident Evil Village will be available for only 24 hours. That means that all gamers, whether returning RE fans or complete newcomers, only have a day to actually take it for a test drive. Never mind if you have real-life concerns to take care of first.

Fans were naturally not amused and complained about the rather stingy and unreasonable limitation. Capcom fortunately reconsidered and is giving players on all platforms a week to preview the Village. The starting dates differ depending on the region but all three markets will at least enjoy the same 7 days, regardless.

That said, you still have only 60 minutes of in-game time to spend, even if spread out in a week. The demo will allow players to explore the Village and castle Demitrescu in 30-minute chunks. That will hopefully be enough to whet fans’ appetites until the game launches on May 7th.



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Security

University will stop using Proctorio remote testing after student outcry

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign announced that it will discontinue its use of remote-proctoring software Proctorio after its summer 2021 term. The decision follows almost a year of outcry over the service, both on UIUC’s campus and around the US, citing concerns with privacy, discrimination, and accessibility.

Proctorio is one of the most prominent software platforms that colleges and universities use to watch for cheating on remote tests. It uses what its website describes as “machine learning and advanced facial detection technologies” to record students through their webcams while they work on their exams and monitor the position of their heads. The software flags “suspicious signs” to professors, who can review its recordings. The platform also enables professors to track the websites students visit during their exams, and bar them from functions like copy / pasting and printing.

Though Proctorio and similar services have been around for years, their use exploded in early 2020 when COVID-19 drove schools around the US to move a bulk of their instruction online. So, too, has scrutiny towards their practices. Students and instructors at universities around the country have spoken out against the widespread use of the software, claiming that it causes unnecessary anxiety, violates privacy, and has the potential to discriminate against marginalized students.

In an email to instructors, ADA coordinator Allison Kushner and Vice Provost Kevin Pitts wrote that professors who continue to use Proctorio through the summer 2021 term are “expected to accommodate students that raise accessibility issues,” and that the campus is “investigating longer-term remote proctoring options.”

Proctorio has been controversial on UIUC’s campus since the service was introduced last spring, and concerned students only grew more vocal through the fall 2020 semester. (Due to COVID-19, the school now operates with a hybrid of online and in-person instruction.) Over 1,000 people signed a petition calling on the university to stop using the service. “Proctorio is not only inefficient, it is also unsafe and a complete violation of a student’s privacy,” reads the petition.

UIUC is one of many campuses where remote proctoring has faced backlash. A Miami University petition, which gathered over 500 signatures, declared that “Proctorio’s design invades student rights, is inherently ableist and discriminatory, and is inconsistent with peer reviewed research.” Over 3,500 signatories have called on the University of Regina to end its use of ProctorTrack, another automated proctoring service. A 1,200-signature petition urges the University of Central Florida to dump Honorlock, another similar software, declaring that “students should not be forced to sign away their privacy and rights in order to take a test.”

Professors and staff have criticized the service as well. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint against Proctorio (alongside four other test-proctoring services), claiming that the services’ collection of personal information amounts to “unfair and deceptive trade practices.” Even US senators have gotten involved; a coalition including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) sent an open letter to Proctorio and two similar services in December citing a number of concerns about their business practices. “Students have run head on into the shortcomings of these technologies—shortcomings that fall heavily on vulnerable communities and perpetuate discriminatory biases,” wrote the senators.

The complaints largely revolve around security and privacy — Proctorio’s recordings give instructors and the service access to some of test-takers’ browsing data, and a glimpse of their private homes in some cases. (Proctorio stated in its response to the Senators’ letter that “test-taker data is secured and processed through multiple layers of encryption” and that Proctorio retains its recordings “for the minimum amount of time required by either our customer or by applicable law.”)

Accessibility is another common concern. Students have reported not having access to a webcam at home, or enough bandwidth to accommodate the service; one test-taker told The Verge that she had to take her first chemistry test in a Starbucks parking lot last semester.

Students have also reported that services like Proctorio have difficulty identifying test-takers with darker skin tones, and may disproportionately flag students with certain disabilities. Research has found that even the best facial-recognition algorithms make more errors in identifying Black faces than they do identifying white ones. Proctorio stated in its response that “We believe all of these cases were due to issues relating to lighting, webcam position, or webcam quality, not race.”

“We take these concerns seriously,” reads UIUC’s email, citing student complaints related to “accessibility, privacy, data security and equity” as factors in its decision. It recommends that students for whom Proctorio presents a barrier to test-taking “make alternative arrangements” as the program is phased out, and indicates that accessibility will be considered in the selection of the next remote-proctoring solution.

We’ve reached out to UIUC and Proctorio for comment, and will update this story if we hear back.

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