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Clever Girl Bess 247

In a revelation that perfectly demonstrates the nexus between moral posturing and greed in America, MSNBC reported Friday that tracking data on student web-surfing is being sold by one of the largest manufacturers of content-blocking software -- and in the name of protecting kids, of course. That software is called Bess, and it restricts the browsing of more than 12 million students -- and thanks to the noxious Children's Internet Protection Act passed by Congress last year, that number is going to get much higher. Guess who one of the first customers was? The U.S. Department of Defense. [Note: jamie posted about this last Friday as well. Read on for Jon's take.]

You can blame the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), passed by Congress last year over the violent objections of educators, civil libertarians and librarians. The election-year law takes control of children's online information lives away from schools, parents and local communities. Instead, CIPA requires all schools and libraries that want federal E-rate funds to help pay for Net access to install blocking and filtering software. This is the same dreary, censorious software that can't distinguish between porn sites and poetry passages, not to mention intelligently discriminate between breast-cancer education pages and breast-ogling sites.

Nearly half of all schools and libraries now use some sort of filtering software, according to research firm International Data Corp. N2H2 Corp.,the makers of Bess, has about 20 percent of this market, the Wall Street Journal reports. That means that Bess controls the Web choices of more than 12 million students kindergarten through high school, and the CIPA is expected to push those numbers much higher.

Now we learn that late last year, N2H2 began selling the data that Bess collects on children's Net and Web use. The information, called Class Clicks, is aggregated, says the company, meaning it can't be used to identify the habits of individual specific students, or even of specific schools. And Bess is a clever girl. Schools use the program as a gatekeeper, and nobody knows more than she does about where kids go, for how long, or which sites they try and access.

But for $15,000 a year, marketers and Web site operators can receive regular reports detailing exactly where kids are going on the Net, along with aggregate estimates of their ages and race. The company insists there's no way for users of this data to figure out precisely who the students are, but it isn't clear whether N2H2 or makers of the filtering programs know, or if so, what they are legally allowed to do with that information.

How do the info-peddlers feel about it? "This is a real nonissue for us," a spokesman for N2H2 told the Journal. "This information is so anonymous and vague."

But if it's so vague, why would anybody pay thousands of dollars for it? And it is definitely an issue for others, including the Electronic Privacy Center in Washington, whose general counsel, David Sobel, told the Journal: "Students just should not be contributing to marketing tools and subjected to profiling based on how they are using the educational tools of the Internet."

Nor, in fact, should anyone buy the notion that filtering software protects children. It doesn't. Statistically kids are in no danger on the Net. Their greatest source of harm comes from physical abuse from family members and people they know, according to U.S. Justice Department statistical abstracts on violence and the FBI Uniform Crime Report, and firearms and other accidents. Congress seems in no rush to block any of those dangers.

So far, just two clients have purchased the information N2H2 is selling. One is the New York-based education portal Big Chalk Inc. The other, strangely enough, is the U.S. DOD, which refused to tell the Journal what it plans to do with the data collected by Bess.

N2H2 says it began tracking kids' Net use in late 1999, believing the data might be useful to teachers and creators of youth-oriented websites. Last year, it began looking into other uses for this information, and began working with the marketing firm Roper Starch Worldwide to figure out what the two companies could sell.

According to the Journal, SurfControl PLC, another maker of blocking programs, said it doesn't collect data of any sort on its users' surfing habits and believes it would be inappropriate to do so.

Is this data-collection the kind of protection Congress had in mind when it compelled libraries and schools to install commercial censorship software, depriving parents, educators and local institutions and politicians of the right to make such choices?

Filtering software is a complex civil liberties problem on several levels, most unappreciated either by Congress or the general pubic:

  • Most filtering programs don't disclose what they block or why, so the users have no real idea what level of protection is being offered. Parents think they are purchasing safety and morality, yet they have no idea what their children are being deprived access to.
  • Blocking software doesn't protect kids, literally or morally. There is no evidence of any sort by any credible source that one single child is safer or more moral because of censorship technology installed on their computers, or because of limited access to the Net.
  • Filtering software legitimizes censorship and invasion of privacy. Many parents buy filtering programs that permit them to re-trace the websites their children have visited. They aren't teaching kids morality but Orwellian intrusions of privacy, dignity, and, yes -- morality itself.

  • Blocking sofware is an illusory technology. It permits the abdication of moral responsibility -- especially that of teachers and parents -- to supervise their children and provide moral direction.

What we have with Bess and CIPA is one more insight into the warped way American politicians exploit children while proclaiming that they're protecting their moral purity. William Bennett, our self-styled national "morals" czar, and a close adviser to President Bush, is a master at this, denouncing the immorality of music, TV, and the Net and Web and making millions off of books, calendars and stickers offering and celebrating "morally correct" stories for kids about hardworking bumblebees and frogs who can't wait to get to school.

Net use is statistically one of the safest things an American kid can do. When kids get in trouble online, it is usually adolescents drawn into powerful or obsessive relationships. Those are rare. Crime rates among the young have been dropping for years, and are now at their lowest levels in a half-century. Children are very rarely harmed as a result of going online. According to child safety experts, online safety rules are easy to learn and follow. So the idea of "protective" legislation is already spurious.

Moreover, even the sale of the aggregate behavior of children (almost always, says the Journal, without the knowledge of kids, parents or schools), has serious implications for privacy and free speech. It promises a future marked by ever-more-sophistiated digital tracking and eavesdropping. Obviously, aggregate figures can't be collected without access to individual statistics. What, exactly, is the boundary?

And once legitimized -- by the U.S. Congress, no less -- the notion of ever more specialized tracking of kids by business and government is now being built into the infrastructure of the Net as well as schools and libraries. It's an awful precedent, even though it's a "non-issue" to the corporation doing it. Even if Bess isn't tracking specific students or targeting specific schools -- yet -- who's to say that the next generation of software will do, or what a different company couldn't or wouldn't gather and sell, especially as Congress forgot to prohibit the marketing of this data in it's rush to "protect" kids from the Net.

Every significant law Congress has passed relating to speech and content on the Net, from the two Communications Decency Acts to the Sonny Bono and Digital Millenium Copyright Acts to CIPA has been offensive and menacing to privacy, free speech, and individual freedom to choose information. American kids seem much saner and more rational about technology than their so-called leaders and protectors. And this doesn't seem likely to get any better under the Bush administration, which has made the moral lives of children and the immoral content in TV, movies and on the Net a central campaign issue and policy priority.

The forced use of CIPA-mandated blocking (and tracking) software is bad enough, meaning that kids online have already relinquished much of their right to free speech, information choice and privacy. Selling the information that results takes away most of the rest of it, and is doubly appalling.

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Clever Girl Bess

Comments Filter:
  • Doesn't the Child Online Protection Act (ugh) have protection against abuses like this?
  • Its just an excuse for big business to get into schools and use filtering software to track kids spending habits. read more about CIPA and COPA here []
  • by Anonymous Coward

    looks like katz needs more practice in HTML.

  • This doesn't surprise me at all.

    As a people, we are far less useful for our labor than we are for what we spend it on. The economy is of utmost importance in this country, no matter how much our new US leader goes on about "faith"...

    With the constant barrage of "targeted" advertising becoming more and more insistent, more and more precise, more and more prevalent and more and more psychologically driven, it's any wonder we can think for ourselves at all.

    Psychology these days is used more to sell things than it is for spiritual healing. This shows where our priorities as a nation lie.

    At this point, our constitution might as well be changed to read "We, the Corporations, of the United States of America..."
  • by Metal Machine Music ( 255620 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @07:23AM (#470193)
    I'm not sure if that is a serious question, but anonymous information is worth a great deal.

    If I know that the magazine I'm thinking of advertising in has the anonymous profile of mainly 20-30 year-olds, that it makes my decision as to whether, and how to advertise with them more effective.

    Similiarly, if I know that lots of children visit Slashdot (or MSN), then I'll advertise things here.

    It's good news, because it means the government don't have to pay as much for the filtering because the people make more money other ways.

    It also means that advertising is better focused, which is better for the recipient (good ads will be clicked on, and might be useful).

    There is no issue about privacy, simply because there's no personal data.

    There's no problem here. It's just that people worry because it's on the internet. This has been going on for years.

    The fact that advertisers know that most Economist readers are male and middle-aged is not a privacy issue, and neither is this - exactly the same thing.
  • John Katz notwithstanding in his lameness, this is just sick. Its good to see at least JK is doing some sort of good here, this kind of garbage needs to be exposed, so then someone with power can take this trash out.

    Way to go.
  • by matth ( 22742 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @07:25AM (#470195) Homepage
    What good is Bess? We use it at the Internet Provider that I work for, UpLink []. It seems to work fairly well... I've played around wtih it in the office. However, there are ways around it... I've played with it, and have figured out some ways to get around the service with the settings in place.... using proxy services and what not.. that I was running on my home computer.... so if it's this easy to get around Bess... why do schools care?

  • Just couldn't resist getting in a shot or two at George W, could ya Jon? Geez, his administration is only a week old, and already it's the coming of the AntiChrist in your mind, isn't it? While I harbor no love for Bush and his agenda, at least he isn't married to Tipper "PMRC" Gore, and didn't have Joe L. as a running mate (huge proponent of filter software and other censorship)

    Again, not that I support Bush' positions necessarily, but it could be worse
  • [Note: jamie posted about this last Friday as well. Read on for Jon's take.]

    Well, I'll read Jamie's take on it, but not Jon's. He's well known as the mother of all Slashdot trolls.

  • by the_mom ( 151228 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @07:28AM (#470198)

    Adult supervision is always better than software!! My kids go wherever they want, and I am always aware of what they do online. IT should be the same in schools with the teachers aware of what is going on. In a library setting, I don't agree that filtering software is needed.

    Granted, some library users will be visiting sites that children should NOT see, so put the adult access computers in a separate area from the children's access systems. And have the librarian (and the kids parents!!!) supervise.

    I certainly believe parental involvement results in acceptable behavior most of the time!! My kids certainly know what is right and wrong.... (I had to get rid of my .whatthefuck email address because they were checking up in my history!!)


    because I said so

  • by Shoeboy ( 16224 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @07:29AM (#470199) Homepage
    I'm sorry, but you just don't have a clue.
    But if it's so vague, why would anybody pay thousands of dollars for it?
    Quick question for you Jon,
    If you were an advertiser, what information would you find more valuable:
    a) Suzy Radcliffe age 9 likes to read Kuro5hin [] and keep abreast of the latest benchmarks on [].
    b) Children who use altavista rather than yahoo also prefer pepsi to coke.
    I think it's obvious that general information is more valuable than specific information.
  • Okay, So we've proven that online filters don't work.

    How about a service that doesn't "blacklist" websites, but instead only lets visitor's view approved sites from a certain list.

    When people try to access sites from off the approved list, the URL gets logged to a database. Somebody at a computer in Nebraska then checks to see if this URL should be allowed to be put on the approved list.

    Yeah, I know it's censorship, but haven't we already agreed that the old way is also censorship? At least this way would work.
  • An free filter to be given to all the schools
    Dominate the market
    put all the filter company's out of biz
    then stop development
    and not not worry about it

  • With the constant barrage of "targeted" advertising becoming more and more insistent, more and more precise, more and more prevalent and more and more psychologically driven, it's any wonder we can think for ourselves at all.

    Turn off your TV and your radio. I guarantee that the level of marketing out there is still low enough to be easily relegated to line noise.

    It's the point at which you no longer have a choice about advertising that people have to start getting shot.

    Leading the partnership for a Jon Katz-free universe,
    Son of Dog
  • Whu? I'm quite startled by that one line, Jon. I hadn't heard of anyone getting violent in protest. Please, elucidate!

  • In the past, I've advocated education as an alternative to censoring software. I always meant that we needed to educate kids on how to use the net responsibly, but now it seems that our government is in dire need of that education.

    I have to wonder, is the DOD's purchase of this data the kind of thing that leads to targeting specific kids? I usually don't buy into the slippery slope argument, but it isn't inconceivable that N2H2 is lying about how specific the data being collected is.

    On a related topic, does the Freedom of Information Act require the DOD to make publicly available the data that they've bought?

  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @07:36AM (#470205)
    So now we find out that not only are these guys bookburners, but they're spies as well. I suppose this should not surprise anyone.

    But this is exactly why I'm almost thinking that censorship may be good in a single case: banning censorship itself. I'm sorry, but if parents aren't going to invest the time needed to teach their children right from wrong (and don't give me that crap about "I don't have time"; you know you do) then we shouldn't be allowing them to entrust their kids to a piece of mindless software that literally can't tell the Mona Lisa from the guy.

    I really think we need to put more effort into compiling lists of blocked sites. Show the blacklists for what they are. Maybe that will get people's attention. It seems nothing else has yet. And who knows; maybe we'll finally realize that there is no substitute for simple responsible parenting and schooling.
  • They care because school administrators are very naive and mostly care about the schools reputation. Using this software makes them look good on paper. And looking good on paper means attracting people moving to the area for that school. Not to mention, obviously more funding for the libraries, as mentioned in the article.

    I know the point is more that the information is being sold but... am I correct in understanding that this software doesn't allow you to set the filters? So say a sex ed site was blocked because of the word sex in the meta tag or something, but it was actually educational, is there a way to change that if say, a health teacher, wants his/her students to be able to access it from the library?

    Back on topic... I don't see much of a problem with selling the information to marketers, they claim its only anonymous aggregate data. If I'm going to get junkmail, I'd like it to at least be something I might be interested in... The problem I have is that it's still a privacy matter for people that are bothered by things like that, especially when they don't state up front that their application collects data for their profit. It's that whole Big Brother issue... I'd like to know who all is watching me when i websurf

  • See also: an answer without a question.
    See also: you can cure cancer by cutting a patient's head off; doesn't mean their condition's gonna improve anytime soon.
  • by UdoKeir ( 239957 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @07:37AM (#470208)
    So if a cunning schoolkid were to set up a perl script that loads Slashdot 50 times a second all day from his/her school, does it mean that the school will receive free samples of Uncle Ben's Hot Grits in a week or two?
  • by kipple ( 244681 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @07:39AM (#470209) Journal
    ..this is where we are going, I think. Look at the issues:
    1. by making the congress approving such laws, it's demonstrated that parents have not only fear of the society *they* created, but also that they admit not being able to *grow* their kids
    2. trying to level a generation to the same way of thinking is typical of a *closed* political system: nazism, communism, fascism, all those ways began with kids.
    3. by the time they realized that nazism was bad, whops! too late! we already have a generation grown up in this state of mind
    4. what is happening is that they'll try to make money from everything was thought as a way to protect 'children'

    ...I have grown watching pr0n sometimes, even when I was *very* young, 'cause of some friends of mine (I'm talking about age of ten or so). And no, I'm not a serial killer, nor a perv, or whatever they think their children may become. And I suppose I'm not the only one here.

    I wonder if congress really cares about the next generation. It's already clear that US kids, due to an excessive protectionism, cannot be compared to kids in the rest of the world (in a matter of math, language, logic skills). I know there are exceptions, but for those of you who have been oversea what I'm saying will look reasonable.

    I myself have been in the US for more than a year in college and I noticed how low the average was: all of my from-all-over-the-world friends noticed that US 'kids' do in college what we do five years before.

    conclusion: excessive protectionism will only bring the US to demand for more and more 'talents' coming from other countries if they want to be a leader in world economy.

    and sorry for the broken english

  • Keep writing Jon, we all love you [].
  • by Wakko Warner ( 324 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @07:40AM (#470211) Homepage Journal
    If all they're doing is tracking aggregate hits to websites, I can see how this might be a bit of a privacy issue, but how does it affect the right to free speech?

    - A.P.

    * CmdrTaco is an idiot.

  • There are ways around getting around it.

    I had to deal with Bess when admining at my high school. Nobody was able to get around it. Here's how.

    We were using Macs and Netscape 2.02 and 3.04. I had lockdown software that wouldn't let people run unapproved programs, and software that wouldn't let a user edit the preferences files (netscape stores the proxy info in the pref file). I then opened up Netscape in ResEdit and hacked out the dialog box that lets you change the proxy settings. Literally deleted it (if you never used ResEdit, this may not make too much sense. But classic mac programs have two forks, data and 'resource'. Resedit is the resource fork editor, it's designed to make creating programs easier, and holds stuff like images, sounds, dialog boxes, and strings).

    As such, you couldn't change it at all. If you had admin privilages, you could run an unhacked copy of netscape to temporarly change it. But students couldn't turn it off.
  • The comparison to magazine subscribers is specious at best. The government does not mandate subscribing to any magazine, it is trying to force this software upon us. You freely give your information to the publisher, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. When you use a public computer, a reasonable amount of privacy/anonymity is expected.

    Should we not be concerned that these companies are telling us what sites we can and cannot visit, effectively steering our use of the Internet, and then are profiting from the results of that? Should we not be even more concerned that our government is forcing this upon us?
  • You are completely right about this.

    While I oppose the forced use of blocking software, this issue is a total red herring, and a waste of time that could be better spent addressing the more serious issues.

    What I found much more troubling was this phrase: "...requires all schools and libraries that want federal E-rate funds..."

    Those funds are our tax dollars, which the federal government has removed from our states to be used for education. However, if you don't play ball their way, they think the kids in your state suddenly don't deserve to have their computer labs funded. Every American should be outraged by this kind of Congressional behavior, but the truth is that it goes on all the time.

    Want your highway funding? It used to be that you had to accept the Federal speed limit to get it... not you need to accept the Federal blood-alchohol-level limits.

    This is why local control is almost always better than state control. The Federal government should run the military, arbitrate interstate commerce, enforce constitutionally mandaded human rights, and little else. Until we, as a nation, insist on limited government, the federal government will remain a powerful and dangerous tool for those with the resources to wield it.

  • Jon, your liberal bias is showing. While accidents are indeed a major cause of injury and death for kids, firearms accidents are a tiny minority of that number. Ten times as many kids die in swimming pools than in firearms accidents, and more kids have been killed by airbags than school shootings since airbags were made mandatory on US cars. Further, deaths from firearms accidents have declined every year since the 1920s.

    While your overall point is good, please don't taint it by pandering to a stereotype - that's the whole reason that geek profiling is bad, yet you insist on gun owner profiling.

  • on Jon's beloved Democratic president's watch. Where was your leader when this happened? I'm betting he was busy--wink, wink, nod, nod.
  • Here is the problem though. Once that information is sold and given to agencies that want to advertise (so they can pinpoint where they should advertise), the ad agencies can now track those children through banner clicks and put together more detailed information on individuals.
  • That is correct. You don't have control over the filterage (at least from what I've seen here).. they give you the filters and you put them in. So if I type in "children sex abuse" for a research paper I'm doing on sexual abuse... it probably wouldn't go =\. So basically all users in the school are banned from sites which may or may not be valid. Granted there is an override password... so it's good for home use... but not for schools...

  • Wait till you meet Cheney's wife...
  • That means that Bess controls the Web choices of more than 12 million students kindergarten through high school

    Does this mean that pepsi could pay these guys a bunch of money, and suddenly, no matter how hard you try, nothing Coke related will come up?

    Lots of people throw fits when it looks like corporations are screwing them over. Why is no one objecting to allowing a major company to control the content that their kids see?

    In my opinion, it would be easier to do the following: First make all students who want to use the internet sign an agreement. Then make sure every student has a network login. If they dont sign the agreement, then their account doesnt get internet access. Then, there are plenty of products that will cache, and scan the incoming content. They can flag potential violations of the agreement, and then a human can look at them to make sure they really are bad. The software should also cache whose account the content went to, and then the student can be held accountable for his own actions.

  • No, even worse. Instead of someone telling you that you can't see something, now they're telling you you can't see ANYTHING without checking with them first.

    "Sure, those sites will be approved. Just try again later. Oh, BTW, there's a three month backlog on approving new sites. Hopefully it will still be up/the information you need will still be there by then. What? Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Maybe you'll go into remission before then. Besides, once it's on the approved list, maybe that cure will help someone else if it's too late for you."
  • by defunc ( 238921 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @07:51AM (#470222)
    Citizens are mere consumers, and societies are now viewed as mass markets. Sad, but that's what we get for a free market. I wish we had a solution to this.


  • I know this goes against what most slashdotters (Or at least so it seems) and I, myself, believe in - but still:
    How about starting a project to develop an Open-source Free (As in beer, AND as in speech, sortof ) CIPA-compliant filtering program?
    The rationale is somewhat similar to the one of the WINE project: (And don't flame me if I got this wrong, please :) ) Although on one hand it might promote and legitimize the use of filtering software, it will still not have a large impact because the use of filters is already CIPA mandated. On the other hand it will allow schools and libraries to use filtering software that will bear no added costs AND have no hidden catches.
    It can either be developed for a free platform (thus also trying to increase the acceptance of GNU/Linux in educational institutions) or for win32.

    If anyone is already aware of such an effort, please post a link. Otherwise, just make your opinion clear.
  • If it weren't for pr0n, none of us would have jobs.

    Face. it. []

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you want open-source censorware, there is squidGuard [], a redirector for the Squid [] proxy server. It provides a great deal of flexibility as to who's allowed access to what, and when.
  • Why does the DOD want this information? I noticed that many of the posts advocated the selling of this information, and in general, demographic data is essential to advertising. However, the worry that is implied here is that the government might potentially use more specific data to hunt for hackers or make token arrests of warez or pr0n 'enthusiasts'. The government and industry have taken a fair amount of our privacy and anonimity(sp?) away over the past several decades, since Welfare in the 1930s IMHO. We in return for sacrificing our freedoms receive an all-powerful nanny-state that takes care for us in a lowest-common-denominator sort of way: what's good for the masses is good for everyone - except the rich. How much longer before every citizen has their DNA on file, analyzed and people forced into their 'ideal place' in society? Or in a different vein - before the state offers 'dole and circuses' to keep the mob happy. 1984 is unlikely, but we could be heading straight for Brave New World if we aren't careful. Yeah.
  • Is this better or worse than having more specific information about a particular school being made available on demand through the Freedom of Information Act, as we've seen before?

    Since these are largely public-funded organizations that own and pay for these filters, can the filtering company be hit with a FOIA request to disclose that information for a specific school or user? After all, taxpayer dollars made that data collection possible! We should have access to it.

    If the answer is yes, then we have to consider the dangers of that information being collected in the first place,

    If the answer is no, what would stop government organizations (like schools) from outsourcing all of their IT needs, so that they could protect that data against public inspection?

    Tired of supermarkets following your every move? Check out my Giant BonusCard Swap Meet [].


  • Excuse me? John Ashcroft? Billions of dollars of "Faith" based money?

    He argueably won by less than 600 votes, so what makes him think the ultra conservatives can do whatever they want and have a field day?
  • I don't get it.. what is wrong with the idea of blocking some sites kids go to ? If my money is going to the govt and some of that money is going to some E-rate program.. I don't want it going towards some kid who wants to visit porn sites on the web.

    I do agree that Bess and other such tools don't do the job properly.. but Jon is set out to make anyone who has strong religous beliefs to be a fanatic and out of touch with the times.

    The problem is not blocking access to adult sites, the problem is that the current software doesn't work very well. Instead of lobbying for removal
    of this law.. why don't we come up with a better solution ? go through the logs of sites everyday.. and add sites that you feel are objectionable
    to a blocklist. Don't just ban just because the words fuck, suck, tits show up in the url.. do some manual work as well.

    I for one don't want my money going into a program that will allow some vagrant (not all kids).. to watch porn while in school. Kids are kids.. they will play pranks... and they will want to go to adult sites.. but i'll be dammned if they do it on my money. Remember I worked hard for this money.. I'm quite pissed that I have to give it to the govt.. they better put it to good use.
  • Okay so we all seem to be in agreement free speech = good and censorship = bad.

    But how strongly do you believe that CDA/CIPA/filtering/gov't(or any)snooping is bad? Are you willing to go to jail for it?

    In the name of free speech journalists have gone to jail for not revealing their sources, libraries have been sued for their server logs, librarians have stongly resisted orders from gov't agencies (FBI & the like) & from the judiciary (subpoenas) to turn over borrowing records. I suspect someone in the Michigan library that was sued for their logs pre-empted the probability of another suit by deleting the logs.

    It takes action to defend what you believe. NO not guns & such, use what influence you have with whomever has more influence than you.

    Letters are great. Only well thought out arguments logically presented work in print.
    (otherwise they could be considered threats)

    F2F conversations with politicians and/or their hangers-on are better, associate a face with the argument. Make the politician associate doing this with support from you & your friends (we all have freinds, whether we call them associates, the guy next door, or the pub crawl club we hang out with) Remember well thought out, non-confrontational, passionate persuasion -- not mumbled half threats (or full threats for that matter) get the point across.

    What? You don't know anyone in politics? What about the poor slobs "above" you in the corporate scheme of things? Above them? Think they might know "somebody"?

    Did/do you vote? (if you didn't then you deserve the W) Do you pay taxes? Can you get to your representative's local office? (check the Phone Book) Chat up the office help, schmooze your way into a f2f. Make your point!

    Get out of your version of the e-cliner and do something (there _are_ enough of us to matter)
  • You freely give your information to the publisher, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. When you use a public computer, a reasonable amount of privacy/anonymity is expected.

    Those kids are still anonymous. That is why this whole argument is a red herring.

    The magazine comparason is quite valid. Here's another: If you move into a house, marketers look at data that shows "people who own houses tend to spend their money thus..." and target you accordingly. Is looking at agregate data of how home-owners spend money an invasion of privacy? Of course not. Neither is looking at agragate data of what web sites students are likely to visit, which is all that they are doing here.

    If one is going to get outraged, we should be objecting to the fact that web filters are there in the first place, not because they sell marketing data, but because their software is crap and they have no accountability in place to show otherwise.

  • The problem is not explicitly that there are mass markets. (I like mass markets because it means cheap gear) The problem is that the mass markets snuff out niche markets, limiting choice. Choice good. No choice bad.

    The wider problem is that capitalism is no longer about making money by building and selling valuable products, it's about making money by controlling and manipulating markets. (Yes, maybe I'm naive to think it was ever any different...leave me to my fantasies, thank you!)

    In other words, I agree, and the problem's going to get worse before it gets better.
  • Maybe you haven't watched US TV much [I can't blame you] but the US Armed Forces Recruiting commercials are thick.

    My guess is the US Armed Services are falling short of their recruiting targets and need to lure more unsuspecting youth to their unusual lifestyle.

    Knowing the surfing habits of your prime targets would help in placing ads.

    Or maybe it's all some nefarious back-room big-govt/police conspiracy :)
  • by sckeener ( 137243 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @07:58AM (#470234)
    I think the worst thing about censorware is the fact that most parents:
    a) have no clue about the software
    b) frequently have the child install the software because the kid is more computer literate
    c) the pc is usually in the kids room

    My brother-in-law connects to the Internet via AOL (sign) and uses their Parental Controls feature (argh) to protect his kid from the dangers of the Internet. What AOL's Parental Controls feature does though is tick him off because he can't get to the sites he wants, but his kid can!
    Most children abuse the Internet because they can get away with it. They have no body watching them or the pc is in their room. Rather than deal with the child, interact with the child, we'll put a tattle tale in their computer. This just makes me sick.
    Censorware is just another means for parents to not be parents. They don't have to be parents. The computer will do it for them. Jon Katz is right about the morals it's teaching. How can we expect kids to grow up defending privacy if we are not willing to give it to them?

    oh well...I guess this is a trol or redundent...frag it. Censorware SUCKS!
  • It also means that advertising is better focused, which is better for the recipient (good ads will be clicked on, and might be useful).
    Targeted advertizing is not good for the recipient, it's just more effective at getting the recipient to do what the advertizers want - buy more stuff they don't really want or need.

    It's about psychological manipulation, in this case the psychological manipulation of children. No wonder the DOD is so interested.

    The fact that advertisers know that most Economist readers are male and middle-aged is not a privacy issue, and neither is this - exactly the same thing.
    No, it's not at all the same thing, because:
    • the information is being collected by software which is mandated by the federal government, not by "reader lifestyle" surveys in the magazine; and
    • these are children, not adults. They cannot give meaningful consent to be tracked, singly or in aggregate.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms |

  • This outcry about the DOD purchasing demographic information on kids is a bunch of liberal rhetoric. Especially considering that the DOD (and civilian colleges/universities) also target those PSAT/SAT/ACT test takers who fit a certain criteria. For example, I remember way back in high school that everyone who scored 1200 or over on the SAT got cute glossy brochures imploring them to join the Long Gray Line.

    What's so wrong about serving your country? Oh, wait, some folks apparently think it is an evil concept.

  • by arnie_apesacrappin ( 200185 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @08:07AM (#470244)
    I've worked with a few different sets of filtering software (SmartFilter, SurfControl to name the two most recent). So far, I haven't seen any that block the "IP address to Decimal" representation of a site. So, for all the kiddies (and people with abusive filtering software at work), I'll post this.

    If you know the ip address of the site your are going to, but it's blocked try this.

    • Get IP address A.B.C.D (you can try dns411 [] or just nslookup)
    • Compute this formula A*256^3 + B*256^2 + C*256 + D. For slashdot, this would be 64 * 256^3 + 28 * 256^2 + 67*256 + 48 = 1075594032
    • Go to http://1075594032 / [1075594032]

    Not the greatest trick in the world, but won't someone please think of the children.

  • >My guess is the US Armed Services are falling short of their recruiting targets and need to lure more unsuspecting youth to their unusual lifestyle.

    That's the most likely hypothesis. (Our .mil doesn't want dossiers on every grade-school kids, that's the FBI's job ;-)

    Sadly, IMNSHO, it's not gonna solve the problem. The DoD's problem isn't recruiting new folks, it's retaining the people it already has.

    Doubly sadly, no amount of advertising can solve that problem.

    Of course, in an ironic note, some of the .mil advertising campaigns brought it on themselves - you know the ones, "Join the Army and get $25000 towards your college education, then quit after a year or two and take your skills elsewhere!"

    >Or maybe it's all some nefarious back-room big-govt/police conspiracy :)

    Hey, on Slashdot, it's always a back-room big-govt/police conspiracy ;-)

  • by AhNewBis ( 42974 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @08:15AM (#470251)
    Logically, let's see why the DoD would be interested in something like this.

    First, the aggregate log data would deal with IP addresses, computer names, workgroups, dates, times, attempted websites, and perhaps even a deeper explaination as to why it was blocked (Nudity, graphic violence, what have you).

    One would also probably know which sites were most visited, and as such, which sites were set as the home pages for the school (if they were set to outside of the local network, at least). From there, ad affiliates would be listed, so one would be able to find out which companies (doubleclick, et al.) were most prevalent. From there, you could determine what cookies were being set on the browsers, and coordinate with doubleclick to see a refined view of what is being served.

    So what we would have is, possibly parsed by school topology, what grade teachers and grade students (I've seen schools where grades are seperated by location) are going to what websites, what sites are blocked, how often the blocked sites are hit, and manages to go through.

    Maybe DoD wants to know how many people are visiting /., reading JK's article, and trying to order a copy of Voices in the Hellmouth ;) I highly doubt that the DoD would be looking for successfully visited sites. Advertising wouldn't have much to do with National Defense. Of course, maybe they're in cahoots with the NSA in looking for brainwashing ad services. Who knows.

    Let's deal now with sites being blocked. It's well known that most, if not all of the filtering software out there doesn't publish which sites are blocked. There's just a huge string database and a list of blocked domains and IP addresses, or what have you. Maybe further information is being blocked through there.

    Let's also look at the issues at hand: the ruling about public facilities paid by the government will have to use censorware to continue receiving funding. Public facilities are exactly that: any Joe Schmoe can come off the street and get to a computer.

    Toss a little paranoia onto the fray, and anyone could come off of the street and get instructions on building bombs, or somehow get some subversive material, hate-mongering information, etc at your local library.

    Let's go full scale in paranoia. Our own governmental facilities would be its own falldown! Criminals (or potential criminals) could come off the street, fire up IE or Netscape, and go to or or maybe or something. And that would be a sad day in history, my friends, a sad day indeed that another domestic terrorist attack goes on that could have been prevented, if only we had the sense and decency to remove that demon-spawn, evil-filled internet!

    If only we knew from whence that evil was spawned! ...oh yeah, that's right. ARPAnet. Something about government. I don't remember. But it wasn't OUR government. Must've been them damn Iraqis or something. Saddam Hussein's granddad did it.


    My guess is that DoD is looking for aggregate ratios of visited to blocked sites. Maybe comparing that against information received from Pinkerton, comparing that against the Student Violence Prevention hotlines or whatever they're called. Find out where the next Columbine is going to go down. Maybe figure out what grade said students are in, and what area is most likely to break out. Then put a little more pressure on the Hive Students to rat out the 'dangerous' ones. Who knows. All kidding aside, I believe it's more for the blocked site information than kiddie marketing information. Don't look at the Black Text on the White Background, look at the White background itself. Something like that.

    Which brings another issue: if the DoD is buying this, than we as taxpayers are paying for this information as well. I'm going to spend some time going over the Annual Defense Report for 2001 [] and see if there's any reason, or any other possible links, for buying this information.

    This result [] on searching for "Children" shows survey results for of-age teens going into the military, and how often they thought about it. Maybe DoD is doing some research. If a lot of .gov hits are coming from one school, toss a few more recruiters there? About halfway down on that site is a listing of 10 objectives that the DoD has on youth support. It's a good read, I won't toss em on here. Let's get a lot of seperate IP addresses hitting a few specific gov pages, just for fun ;)

    Actually...I may have found it right here [].

    "So two years ago, we asked McKinsey and Company to start a very large marketing study for the Army and, as a result of a lot of their work, some of the insights they gave us is that we needed to do research-based advertising, understanding youth attitudes and needs. We had the Rand Corporation do a very large marketing study of more than 7,000 individuals, focusing precisely on youth attitudes and needs and how to communicate with today's 18- to 24-year-old. Every generation of 18-year-olds is different. Gen X is different from Gen Y, is different from today's 18- to 24-year-olds, is different from the one that will be here in a couple of years. So that research that we're doing, that market research, will now be an ongoing part of how the Army thinks about how it communicates with young people.

    And later on...

    "You will also note that in this advertising, we talk about 212 ways to be a soldier. We identify specific military specialties. Part of what we want them to understand is that the kind of interests they have in occupational training and work experience, they can get it through the Army; that they should come and explore those 212 ways to be a soldier to find the one that's right for them, whether it is as an infantryman, or as an artilleryman, or as a medical technician, a computer repairman, a helicopter repairman, a wheeled-vehicle generator repairman. We want to drive them to the web site where they're going to get more of that information about the opportunities that are available, and help them make an informed decision. Our goal is to make the Army one of the options that they are considering for the future."

    And on the costs...

    "Q: Could you talk about the budget for this and how much the -- particularly how much the spot will be that's debuting tomorrow night, and then the overall budget numbers?

    Caldera: It's about $150 million for the advertising campaign. Over the last few years, actually, the amount of money we put into advertising has not kept pace with inflation in advertising. So it's fairly consistent with what we've done in the past. We are trying to take advantage of the ability to buy earlier and get better prices and be more targeted in the shows that actually fit the demographic that we're trying to reach.

    And once more...

    Wolf: The key with any advertising is understanding the target that that advertising is directed at. And that's we did, is we dug into our target and really understood them. To our target, to those young adults, "Be all you can be" was not motivating.

    This report was dated the 10th of January, this year.

    Anyways...if anyone finds anything else, please reply =)


  • I think the issue is less whether it is a threat to free speech than it is a threat to free thought. When we raise a generation of kids who are used to their every move being watched, we raise a generation who sees no harm in the government overseeing everything we do. (i.e. why else would people think it is OK to have cameras watching intersections in our cities?) When parents quit relinquishing the right to raise their own children as they see fit, maybe then the government will back off. Until then, people who are too "busy"/ill-equipped/lazy/ ___ (your word here) will continue to demand that the government raise their kids for them. Then we end up with a generation of kids unable to have independent thought. And that's scary.
  • Consent to be tracked in aggregate!?

    You are tracked in aggregate every damned day, and there is NOTHING you can do to stop it.

    I bet there's even marketing statistics available on the spending habits of kooky crypto-luddite hermits. ("17 percent of adult males who live in old woodsheds in Montana buy at least two bean-and-cheese burrito combos each week." "31 percent of people who send bombs through the mail prefer chocolate syrup in their milk over chocolate powder.")

    Every time you hit a web page, every time you buy something, every step you take every move you make they'll be watching you.

    ...and none of them care who you are, or whether you want to be watched.

  • by briancarnell ( 94247 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @08:34AM (#470262) Homepage
    Hmmm..once N2H2 markets a sample of data obtained from students, it is engaged in research. There are very strict guidelines about the rights of human test subjects in research including the ability to opt out of studies such as those being conductec by N2H2. The rights of human subjects to opt out of such studies are especially enhanced when the subjects are captive audiences such as students in school.

    Unless N2H2 is offering students a way to have their data excluded from the aggregation, this would seem to be a straightforward violation of numerous laws governing human test subjects.
  • I've got mixed feelings on this one. On one hand, I'm *really* tired of all the "Save the Children!" knee-jerk issues we're subjected to. On the other hand, though, it's depressing to look around at how consumption oriented and possessive our society (myself included)has become; and even *more* depressing to realize how hard the push is to keep that materialistic machine a' turnin' into the next generation. Do we really want state assisted marketing operations going?
    I can see it now... Are tax preparation companies going to be given lists of people who itemized in the past to focus advertisements to? Are people who received some type of government assistance in the past year going to be put on a list for temp agencies?
    I realize that the revenue may help offset the cost of the censoring software (which is of dubious benefit anyway, but...), but is this a precedent we want to establish? It doesn't seem like a long leap to get to "Open your algebra books, which were provided by Pepsi, to Chapter 16. Remember, drink Pepsi for its great taste, and to support your school!" Hyperbole, yes.
    ..But think about exactly how much we want the government involved in assisting corporate marketing.
  • The antithesis of net blocking is "freedome to choose".

    The antithesis of selling browsing habits is also "freedom to choose".

    ...the sale of the aggregate behavior of children ... promises a future marked by ever-more-sophistiated (sic) digital tracking and eavesdropping.
    It also promises a future marked by ever-more-sophisticated marketing techniques aimed at compelling us to choose, freely, what the marketer wants us to choose. If a marketer gets inside my child's head and knows what will make them do something, then does it, where has the freedom to choose gone?

    And who is going to protect our oh-so-coddled (and oh-so-sequestered) children from the seeming benignity of a web site designed by these marketers? Parents? I think not. The average parent will not have the savvy of a major marketing department to recognize subliminal manipulation when they see it.

  • The issue of the blocking software is not what is so troublesome here to me. I believe that schools who wish to institute blocking policies are totally within their rights. The supremem court agrees. The high court has ruled (on numerous occasions if memory serves) that Children have "more restricted" freedoms than adults. I believe this to be the correct ruling. HOWEVER, the involvement of the federal government is what scares me here. On one side, it is understanable that the feds don't just give money out without any conditions... would you? But on the other hand, requiring the use of blocking software seems too big brother. Perhaps requiring an Acceptable Use Policy and a plan to enforce it is better? I don't know. Also, the selling of any information gathered by Bess is wrong. I shouldn't have to explain that.
  • In a revelation that perfectly demonstrates the nexus between moral posturing and conceit in America, Jon Katz releases yet another wordy ill-thought-out screed on Slashdot.
  • COPPA [], the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, is about collecting personally-identifiable information, not aggregate data, so I'm not sure this is a violation. Also keep in mind that COPPA, which is constitutional, should not be confused with the anti-adult material Children's Online Protection Act, or COPA, which was found to be unconstitutional. Jonathan I. Ezor Dir. of Legal Affairs, [] Find out why Library Journal called Jonathan's book CLICKING THROUGH: A Survival Guide for Bringing Your Company Online [] (Bloomberg Press: 1999) one of "The Best Business Books of 1999"! Click here [] for free Internet legal news for your Web site or newsletter.
  • by Vilk ( 131239 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @08:58AM (#470280)
    It was during my senior year of high school that Bess was installed on the systems at school; we were the recipients of a government grant and it seemed, politically naive that I am, that one of a few stipulations was the use of filtering software. Being a budding computer science major I did all that was within my power to work around it. I compiled a list of interesting sites that Bess blocked and managed, once or twice, to evade the software.

    I discovered that Bess not only blocks the expected pronography, explicit language, etc, it denied access to sites such as While this site now offers software for download that will disable net censoring, when I first checked it out it was nothing but a simple site advocating freedom of surfing as an extension of freedom of speech. I understand that this is against the very concept of Bess itself, but when does the advocacy of the enforcement of the American constitution constitute a threat to our nations youth? Clearly the act of blocking was malicious and spiteful, the only reason being it threatened the moral stance of the corporation. What does this say about N2H2?

  • The software should also cache whose account the content went to, and then the student can be held accountable for his own actions

    Oh, come on. This is the USA. NO ONE is accountable for their own actions anymore. It doesn't matter what the hell happens, there's always some way for some idiot to get around it. Booze, pills, LACK of pills, my mother was mean to me this morning, there's a funny man walking by outside, it's raining, it's NOT raining, it's sunny, it's cloudy...

    See, your idea makes SENSE. So of course it would be ignored by the mainstream, because they don't want to take responsibility for anything. Parents think their children are little angels, and if a teacher tries to say otherwise, they organize a group of people and get RID of the teacher.

    And then, four years later, another Columbine. Because the people that were willing to listen or actually listened were chased away.

  • deaths from firearms accidents have declined every year since the 1920s.

    Whereas, deaths from non-accidental firearms use have gone up every year since the 1920s!
  • Ok, this is a little paranoid, but still, the point is valid. Personally, I don't look for quite so sinister a reason why the gov is interested. I think that maybe the DOD is actually screening for another group looking for information which may not want the fact that they are monitoring to come out. The FBI for instance looking for how many times someone visted (or tried) a bomb making site. Not so they can prevent the next Columbine, but so that they can see how prevelant the thinking is among kids. I doubt just because they are the DOD that they get any extra information from Bess than anyone else.

    Next point. No one has really brought up the issue that this company has yet to make a profit. We now know what happens to's when they can't make money for an extended period of time. And, we know what happens when the failed has to sell it's assets. The article points out that to get the aggregate anonymous data, they have to collect a lot more data which I doubt is deleted as soon as the anonymous report is compiled. So what happens if this company fails? Do they destroy their database or do they try and sell it? The gov is interested, and so is every kids marketer in the known universe (I think many come from outside our galaxy anyway) as well as those in peripheral industries. The anonymous data is innocuous really, but the problem is later when the not so innocuous data is in question and is a commodity. Then what happens?

  • First, children do not have the same rights as adults. Even if we did have rights to privacy (we don't, it's only implied by 'illegal search and seizure'), that right would not be granted to children, or at least, it would be proxied through their parents or guardians. Therefore, if as a parent I installed software that would normally invade an adult's "right" to privacy but was being used to monitor my child, there is no legal issues regarding this. And, truthfully, if I were a parent, I'd like to know where my child was going to, at least at some aggregate level, but at least thru a proxy or url logger. Adult sites start appearing? Have "The Talk" with them. Sites about depression or suicide prevention? Sit down with them, and try to figure out what's going on. Would I necessary stiffle their access to such sites? All depends on the situation, but in general, probably not. Child rearing is an interactive process, and filters cannot be used to remove the interaction that parents must do to raise children effectively.

    Second, filtering is not censoring; it is a slippery slope to it, and as Katz pointed out, the fact that only closed commercial solutions exist seems to legitize the fact that a non-publically controlled entity can decide what's right or wrong. But until mandatory filters are installed on every computer in the nation (not just those that children might access), it's not censoring. That said, either we must remove the mandatory filter law or change it such that local government has a large say whether to filter or not without the threat of losing thousands of dollars of funding, or require that any filtering program that is in use must have source code available as well as a list of sites and reasons for them being on that list, both which can be requested for at any time by the public. Here's where an open source software solution could work nicely.

    Now, again, what gets me is that COPA says you cannot collect information (presumably identifiable) from children without the consent of the parent, yet we have the other part of the law that requires the use of filtering software, some which collects data AND makes money off it. If that's not a conflict of interest, I'd be very surprised. There's a case pending in a NE state where a parent wanted the log of sites visited by students at his local school, which he claimed under the Freedom of Information act his has rights to. The problem is that the school had the same log for staff and teachers as it used for students, and apparently there was sufficient identifying information in that log to say which teachers visited which sites. The court, last I heard, was trying to figure out if giving the unaltered logs would violate COPA and other privacy acts, or if even modifying the logs to strip out the identifications would be violating the FOI act. This situation should have never happened.

    Finally, I still think that there is no reason for a grade school to have a fat pipeline to the rest of the internet; it is certainly possible to dilute the amount of data that comes downstream to the terminals that students use such that they have a cached but useful subset of the internet for those general computers, and possibly full access at one or two terminals in a library, where their actions CAN be watched by the librarian. You'd not have to worry about filtering or logging or anything like that, since the number of points where that can occur would be limited and be supervised.

  • Well, not quite. I think the DOD is just looking for new markets. They are analyzing what kind of weapons kids are most interested in, so they can sell more of those.

    It's just normal market research.

  • I had to 'ride' on this 'highly-rated' but otherwise utterly retarded comment because the few dissenting opinions I've seen posted have been moderated down as flamebait.

    Funny. All the good doggies, jumping through 'anti-censorship' hoop.

    I just can't, for the life of me, see the dread behind this 'issue'. If I ran a grade school, I'd skip on the 3rd-party 'nanny' software. I would simply block ALL internet access except for sites required or requested by teachers for student use. Kids can 'surf' at home. They can do research at the library. If they want to do extra at home, that's fine, but you lose me completely with all this infantile shouting about "kids must have absolute unfettered access to all WWW content all the time / anything less is laying the foundation for the Orwellian nightmare".

    Infantile. I want what I want right now and you can't take it from me and I don't have to do what you say and if you try to make me I'm gonna tell my dad and he's gonna get a lawyer and make you let me do what I want 'cause it's a free country and I can do whatever I want.

    It's SCHOOL you fscking retards! SCHOOL!

    Good doggies. Keep jumping!

  • by scrytch ( 9198 ) <> on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @09:37AM (#470303)
    > a) Suzy Radcliffe age 9 likes to read Kuro5hin and keep abreast of the latest benchmarks on

    She certainly won't be doing anything of the sort at her school.
  • Not really... your mistake is you're thinking like an individual, not like a borg.

    What DOD most likely needs this for is the following: some manager/officer now has the statistics that XXX # of kids visit their recruitment pages for Air Force, YYY visit Army, etc... , and it all is sampled by race/age, so they got themselves a mighty valuable recriuting marketing aid. I know that screaming liberals like Katz are against anything with DoD on it (when will you stop using TCP/IP based software, Katz?), but please, have a clue! Some people actually care about doing their job better, not spying on you for nefarious purposes.

    If DoD wanted to actually track which user tries to DDoS them, they can do it using normal networking tools without resorting to aggregate statistics from some company.

    "Big Brother Doesn't Care About You"


  • I'm going to respond to this rather than burn a mod point. In any case the issue here is not that things are blocked but rather the *way* in which things are blocked. There are two big problems with the way they are going about it. First of all we do not know what is being blocked by this software. If they did what you suggested that would be fine. Everybody would know what was being blocked and why. Fine good at least you can then argue about it. This way nobody knows what is being blocked or why and this is a *bad* thing because it gives this corp control over what people see and hear give the control to the school I have no problem. The other and bigger problem is that this corp is tracking and using for their profit the habits of those who are using this without their knowledge or permission. This is a bad thing. Once again if we did what you propose that issue would go away. The issue here is not really whether some things should be filtered or not (at least for schools) but rather who should have control over the process and who (if anyone) should be allowed to make a profit off of selling information about our children. And in closing my sig does very much apply to you. :)
  • Ok, I admit it..... I set-up monitoring in a large college in the UK.


    Because the institution is obliged to monitor and prevent students, and staff, from accessing materials not suitable for viewing in a public building.

    But the logs were never taken out of the server room, and no information was disclosed to anyone outide the network staff.

    We had the ability to profile people's surfing habits, and ultimately their personal habits, we took our position of trust seriously and treated this knowlege with the respect it deserved.

    The college was successful in prosecuting a member of staff for viewing kiddie porn, without being able to pinpoint users personally this would not of been possible.

    How would you feel as a member of staff at a high school who knew that someone using your network was faciniated by the spate of shootings in US high schools, and also was searching for information on psycoactive drugs and bomb making?

    Do I agree in censorware in general, the answer is no. Society should guide us what is acceptable and what is not. This, at worst, should be left to government not to companies whom not only profit from supplying 'Black Box' software but also profit from the data they collect from it's use.

    But I do feel more comfortable that when used correctly it can be used to identify potential 'problems waiting to happen'.

  • Actually, what you propose is no more possible then the installation of filtering software. And to be honest, if my child were attending your school, you can trust he would be put into private school (I believe in public schools, but would not have my child attend one run by a control freak). You see, we tried the approach of blocking everything except "requested" websites at my job. The problem, is that there are TOO many websites, and you can't name all of them off the top of your head. You see, the whole message, the WHOLE POINT, is not that kids need some sort of magical protection from unsuitable content, they need knowledge and guidance so they can understand why something is inappropriate. We're not saying that children need unfettered access to the internet. We're simply saying that it is a parent's responsibility to teach morals. It is no more a teacher's right to tell a child which websites are appropriate, as it is for them to teach that multi-racial marriage is wrong. A teacher provides guidance that the parents are unable to (ie. showing them how to find the area of a cone, etc.). They're not babysitters (of course), and they're definetely not parental substitutes.
  • You sound like a libertarian! That's a good thing.

    The above links are a good start to preventing things like this from happening.

  • troll, my ass. this is SO non-troll and on-topic that it hurts.
  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @10:10AM (#470331) Homepage Journal
    So, everyone's upset because bess is a no-win scenario for schools and it's competition is falling by the wayside.

    Something tickles the back of my brain... large software that many are forced to use... sucks... manipulative marketing... Oh yeah, this is why we write open source software!

    So, let's put up or shut up. Here's some specs, anyone up for implimentation and organization?
    • Target audience is broken into three: users (kids) organizations (schools, libraries, parents, etc) and BSPs (blocking service providers). In many cases, organizations will be BSPs, or will band into small groups to form one (e.g. school districts)
    • For the users, you provide several of the features for controling access in the OTHER direction (e.g. adblocker type features as well as some basic anonymity)
    • For the organizations, you provide sweeping, but simple controls over level of control. For example, you can turn logging on or off; you can select the classes of content to block; you can select the sources of blocking recomendations (there's a business model in there, even for Bess).... It's also important for the organizations to be able to delegate certain functions to users at their option. If, for example, the organization wants to block commercial sites by default, but allow users to turn them on, that should be OK.
    • For the BSPs, there's controls for who can use the service; what options are allowed and how much security is in place.
    • It should be administered entirely through a Web browser.
    • Users should be organized by class so that each class can have its own profile (e.g. "student under 13", "student over 13", "students in physiology class", "teachers", etc.). Profiles must be defined by the BSP or the organization, since no one-size-fits-all model will be complete.
    • Log file reporting must be at least up to basic usage reports
    • The system should be as platform neutral for organizations and users as possible
    • There should be a feedback mechanism so that users can feed back to organizations, and organizations to BSPs on incorrect blockage (an appeal system).

    I'd start coding this myself, but I'm working on another mostly-open-source project in my free time, which I think a lot of people will like, and which might even end up being as socially relevant if I do it right.
  • Every time you hit a web page, every time you buy something, every step you take every move you make they'll be watching you.

    Only if you are stupid enough to leave all cookies enabled in your browser. Limit it to just allowing cookies to be seen by the same sites as sent them and they have no clue what your browsing history is, or who you are, but you will still be able to take advantage of the remembered logins/password/context feature that cookies were originally meant for.

  • ...more kids have been killed by airbags than school shootings since airbags were made mandatory on US cars.
    Once again showing the stupidity of passive safety devices as opposed to training one's young people to Do The Right Thing. Children can be taught gun safety. Many, many of my generation of people brought up in my native Dixie were raised around guns, taught to shoot by their fathers, and I never knew of anyone being killed in a firearms-related accident until I left home. My next door neighbor, however, was killed in a car accident.... he was not wearing his seat belt. My mother has been in three rather nasty accidents - two in which the car was totalled - seat belt, NO air bag, no more than minor soreness.

    Do The Right Thing. Teach them firearms safety. Teach them to wear their seat belt, ALWAYS. (I really admired a friend's kid who would pitch a fit if the car started moving before he managed to get his seat belt fastened.) And don't censor them. Let their little minds roam free... they'll surprise you by how sensible they are, if you teach them to think.

    And don't give the Imperial Federal Government one iota more than you can get away with. Not in bits or bucks. That goes double for the other Big Brothers in our lives. Anything you give them just gives them more power over your life.

    warp eight bot
    American by birth
    Southern by the Grace of the Lady
    Seattle by choice

  • So in essence what you are saying is that it is okay for marketers of products to target marketing at children who are visiting websites from school. So would you also agree that it's okay for those same marketers to come to the school without it's permission and put up alcahol/tobaco/movie posters etc. in the hallways? Because in essence this is what you are allowing for.

    I have used many of the filtering programs and have found, humorous and disturbing as it is, that the filtering does not seem to block links provided from ads on approved web sites even though those ads may indeed contain information that I would prefer my children not be looking at. My children have no purchasing power, despite what statistics might say, I make the purchasing decisions in my household and I ignore ads because 99% are lies and misleading. I feel that all this effort being put into tracking statistics and ad targeting is for naught. Marketing is falling into the law of diminishing returns, new billboards, more magazine ads, more TV spots, more ad banners, and for what so someone can ignore them, fast forward through them, get up and get a soda during them, go directly to the table of contents and find what they want and not see them.

    How many people here actually buy a product based on an ad? How many people here buy a product based on a need? How many people here buy a product after researching it? How many purchases are on a whim because you saw it in the store? How many purchases are made on products that have minimal or zero advertising?

    Pharmaceutical companies spend huge amounts of money on ignorant commercials that don't even seem to target anyone, many of those commercials don't even tell you what the product does, just makes you sit there and go 'WHAT?' Then the company decides to claim that the reason their products are so expensive is because of R&D when in truth it's because of the amount of money they are spending on crappy useless commercials.

    I don't realistically think that any amount of targeting or better ad placement is going to help the sales of most products. I think the major thing that would help most products is just the creation of a better product, because the best advertising in the world is word of mouth.

  • seen a couple of elem. schools that've blocked /. as material not suited for children

    Are you sure about that? Was it the school that chose to block the site or was it being done by the third-party blocking software they installed? The school may be unaware of what is being blocked - none of these filter packages publish their blacklists. CyberSitter is known to block Slashdot because CyberSitter blocks sites with unflattering (i.e. truthful) reviews of CyberSitter. (A real eye-opener about why these companies are scum.)

  • I think the idea that children are being used as market research subjects against their will is far more troubling than the the notion of censorware itself.

    The idea that companies like these are secretly eavesdropping on our children's minds in order to sell them things more effectively gives me a far deeper chill than the notion that little Jimmy can't see

    Private corporations are invading the public school structure we built to educate our children and turning it into just another branch of market research or human resources. How long until we dispense with the pretense of education altogether, and simply assign Jimmy his place in the corporate empire at birth?


  • Actually that's what their motto is (or used to be). I used to administer and maintain a BESS server for a private university. Tell you what, it does work pretty good, but if john doe wants to go to a 'bad site' he can do it pretty easily with just a few minutes to spare. Of all the 'filtering' solutions out there, N2H2 probably has the best one. It is very customizable and the admins of it can remove, add, and change categories, sites, etc. Got a site that's blocked? Send in a request and it'll probably be unblocked (within reason). It's a product designed for schools where more and more are going online and yet there aren't enough adult supervisors to help monitor what kids go to. This is a preventive tool, not a catch-all. I'm a firm believer that at home parents need to watch what their kids surf. But if i were a parent with my kids in school on unfiltered, unmonitored access i'd be worried. There is just way too much garbage on the 'net nowadays. Too many people addicted to porn and it's destroying their lives, their families, their careers, etc. Something needs to be done. I'm an advocate of free speech but having obscene pornography available for all to see and get to with 2 clicks and 30 seconds is just too much. I've tested and used many filtering solutions and none of them are 100% perfect, many have holes. They weren't designed to be the total babysitter for surfers but as a tool to help prevent the temptation to abuse the 'net. People clamor about privacy, etc but you know what with the net, it's all relative. Go to google and type your full name in. You'd be surprised to see how many pages come up with information you posted years ago. Anyways, that's my view and 2 bucks worth. :) ~V
  • Jon, your liberal bias is showing. While accidents are indeed a major cause of injury and death for kids, firearms accidents are a tiny minority of that number. Ten times as many kids die in swimming pools than in firearms accidents, and more kids have been killed by airbags than school shootings since airbags were made mandatory on US cars.

    And your right wing bias is showing.

    The facts are thus. If you choose a cut off for childhood that ends at something like age 10 then drownings dominate. This is because little kids drown a lot. If you choose and end for childhood at something like 18 (when most 'adult' permissions kick in) then firearms dominate. This is because big kids shoot each other and can get out of buckets they fall in.

    You are being every bit as deceitful as Jon if you claim to correct him, but also don't illuminate what your claim is based on.

    It's a shame that this is what the gun debate has become.


  • You are tracked in aggregate every damned day, and there is NOTHING you can do to stop it.

    Of course there is. I can decline to give out demographic data, or to use payment methods which make tracking possilble. I filter my web cookies, I answered the census (long form) with "2 people live here, that's all you need to know", I make most of my purchases in cash.

    So if I'm going to be tracked, it's (usually) just as "someone was here", not as "a Caucasian male aged 25-35, single, graduate degree, two dogs, owns own home, was here".

    I'm not opposed to giving out information about myself. (I just did so above, and there's a wealth of personal data on my website.) I object to having that information taken from me. I object to being surreptitiously tracked, watched, monitored, pushed, filed, indexed, stamped, briefed, debriefed, and numbered, in the name of more efficient marketing to keep per-capita consumption on the rise.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms |

  • A couple of years ago, the German government wanted to have a census. Now Germans were (given their history)quite leery about the idea of a large government database holding all their personal info. In order to counter this the German government set controls in place to make sure that all data was 'anonymous'. Guess what: German hackers (I believe the Chaos Computer Club) proved that any level of reidentification on this so-called anonymous data was possible, in fact easy.

    The point: unless N2H2 discloses *exactly* how they anonyminize their data, aggregate data is no guarantee against privacy violations

  • Hey, just wanted to point out that I learned how to make my first homebrew firecracker from a library book. It wasn't until years later that I found out how dangerous that particular recipe was - from rec.pyrotechnics.
  • FOIA requests would not allow you to get personal data about children (that would violate the Privacy Act, which superceds the FOIA for personal data). However, the Electronic Privacy Information Center [] has already put in an FOIA request asking for all memos, directives, etc. involving the purchase and its purpose. To quote EPIC's FOIA request:

    "We request copies of all records concerning the Department of Defense's (DoD) communication with N2H2, Inc. or Roper Starch Worldwide, the products 'Bess,' 'Class Clicks,' and the 'Roper Youth Report,' and any similar activities pursued by DoD. This request includes, but is not limited to: minutes of meetings with N2H2 and Roper Starch representatives and others, notes, correspondence, submissions, reports, memoranda, electronic mail, and staff calendars and appointment books."


  • by Skip666Kent ( 4128 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2001 @11:26AM (#470360)
    I wholly agree that it is the parent's responsibility to teach morals, ie, the 'knowledge and guidance so they can understand why something is inappropriate'. It is the school's job to supply teachers with the resources they need/want to impart lessons to the children who attend that school. If XYZ Filtering software rids a given teacher of a good portion of the distractions (and disruptions) available on the web, but still makes available desired content, then I see no problem whatsoever with that arrangement. If the software is filtering desired content, then the teacher will be the first to complain, and the system can be tailored to fit the teacher's wishes.

    It is no more a teacher's right to tell a child which websites are appropriate, as it is for them to teach that multi-racial marriage is wrong

    I disagree. It is a teacher's DUTY to tell a child EXACTLY which websites are appropriate for a given lesson. If I'm teaching a class in Earth Science and some kid is kicking back reading an issue of Penthouse, I'm going to rip the magazine out of his/her hands and send the kid to the Principal's office. If the kid is kicking back reading Scientific American, I'll take the magazine out of his/her hands and demand to see them after class, at which point I'll return the magazine, express genuine interest and appreciation for their interest in extra-curricular science, but ask that they persue it on their own time and not during class which is disrespectful.

    It's the same with web-content. You want to read Slashdot? Fine. Do it on your own time. Want to look at porn? Neo-Nazi propaganda? Pokemon chat sites? Have a ball, but not here. XYZ software will help reduce the likelihood of these disruptions? Cool. Hand it over.

  • In the aftermath of Columbine, I went looking for bomb sites on the Internet. I also went looking for news articles about other school shooting incidents in the United States. Does that mean I meant to blow up a school? No. It means that I was curious about the allegations that the Internet had something to do with all the violence, and decided to see for myself rather than rely upon some talking head on TV to feed me some pre-digested pap.

    It is sad that people like you would have expelled me from school for satisfying my curiousity about the real facts. But it doesn't surprise me. There have long been hypocrits more interested in condemning others than in living an upright and helping life, and long ago I learned that such people migrate to positions of power, since such positions allow them to impose their own particular warped believes upon others.


  • But until mandatory filters are installed on every computer in the nation (not just those that children might access), it's not censoring. That said, either we must remove the mandatory filter law or change it such that local government has a large say whether to filter or not without the threat of losing thousands of dollars of funding...
    There is a simple solution to this. Abolish the E-rate, aka the Gore Tax. When there is no more money attached to this, school districts will not feel compelled to dance to Washington's tune over these silly issues. They're much more likely to spend money on those things which are actually important, which may not be computers and networks.
    Knowledge is power
    Power corrupts
    Study hard
  • We're not so far off as that. My brain-vise of the day (come on, let's have just another _quarter_ turn of the vise, I'm not screaming yet) has to do with banks.

    Background- last year, I took out a bank loan, using my folks as a co-sign, for some recording equipment. Got that, everything was fine, did not miss a single payment, and was all pumped up about 'yay, I'm building a credit history! I can co-exist with capitalism, this isn't so hard!'

    Having basically paid off this loan flawlessly I lay plans for an actual small business and set up to take out a matching loan- basically, just keep the payments going, no problem here, right? I have credit now for at least amounts equal to what I'm already doing flawlessly?


    Turns out (nice of them to never once think of this or mention it) that you have to have a car for collateral- or equal amounts of money in a savings account. Now, I don't drive. I bike, and I walk. By choice. I don't think cars are a good thing- and I am too prone to be thinking about guitar effect box wiring diagrams when I ought to be watching the road and cannot control my brain and dumb it down to the point where I feel it is safe and justifiable for me to drive. Plus, cars are an expense not an asset- a big expense.

    So as of today (and I do plan to sleep on it, and expect to feel less betrayed tomorrow) my capacities don't count for squat. I'm not talking to them about floating a big loan against earnings- even though I _could_ put together detailed cash flow statements and a complete business plan- and I'm not talking about even increasing the amount- it's actually about 4% less than what I effortlessly paid off the last time!

    But to be a citizen of the corporate empire, you've got to _live_ your role. Living with no car and no cable TV and putting every penny you have TO WORK for you in materials and needed resources, being frugal and planning well and knowing your costs and expenditures- that doesn't even matter anymore! It is _meaningless_ compared to: do you have a car, so you can sign over the title because we no longer even _pay_ _attention_ to what _you_ are like, you are nothing but your role and your role is 'slacker consumer loser' and because you guys are all alike and screw up your finances, we will just blithely give you money at X% interest and repo your car if you mess up. So where's your car, serf? You need to be maintaining a car. No, stocks or bonds or owning land won't do- it has to be a car or have Mommy cosign it...

    *SIGH* you know, I think the primary reason I'm 'processing' this kind of rage is because I did my part. I went along with the system, planned sensibly, fully lived up to my part of the deal and I really, honestly, thought that you could build a relationship with your bank, that you made a credit history and showed them that you were a responsible dude. If doing this means nothing, why the _fuck_ even try, is my question? I feel completely duped. I may as well have been totally irresponsible for all the difference it made.

    I think that is the true dark side of the corporate empire- just as there are no individuals _within_ it (just the legal entity) there are no individuals _outside_ it either- there is nothing but classes of consumer, serfs, there is nothing personal about it at all and there's absolutely no point in even bothering to be anything, to strive or be loyal or be responsible, because you could be Mother Teresa combined with Thomas Edison combined with Linus Torvalds and at no point will you ever deal with a person who's evaluating your merits and worth- it will never be other than 'do you have a car?' *check* 'have you ever declared bankruptcy?' *check* and so on...

    And that's your corporate empire in a nutshell- you DON'T EXIST. You're a role. The crazy irony of this is that it's the utter antithesis of the whole triumph-of-the-individual Randite thing, and yet those are the people who support corporate rule. Open your freaking eyes! Not until individual brilliance is _percieved_ by the corporate entity will that point of view make even a bit of sense.

    "So, Mr. Rourke, you say you have a breathtakingly innovative architectural design, and in addition you are giving us extremely detailed information on the costs and cash flow of your building proposal. *promptly ignores all that* Please fill in subsection R, and be advised that you need to change the design because all our applicants construct building arches _this_ way..."

    Welcome to the corporate empire. You don't exist. You are a classification- a _broad_ classification.

  • For me the scarey bit is why the blazes the US DoD wants the info.

    Colonel: "General, where are we going to make our next bio-warfare experiment?"
    General: "Wait a sec, lemme see that web stats... mmm, it seems in Whateverville, MA, schoolchildren read Noam Chomsky online 17% more than the national average. Yep, this is the place".
    Colonel: "Yes, Sir!"

  • He sure did! Then there was this guy named Stalin who came to power and mouthed the platitudes of The People and started killing them on an industrial scale. Things went south from there.

    I have to be very skeptical of any philosophy of human interaction that tries to model people as being motivated by cooperation, rather than being motivated by (hopefully enlightened) self interest. If you think that the people in power are not going to be selfish, and you don't design your system of government with that in mind, you wind up with the Khmer Rouge. And that's bad.
  • I work for a large computing company which uses N2H2's Bess for filtering employee web access. Bess exhibits all the flaws typical of filtering products. Ridiculous sites are blocked and not blocked. For example until recently was blocked but or was fine. Now all of is blocked. The entire site is blocked (they have images of things like renaissance paintings that sometimes include nudity). The first site I found blocked was The Elvis Index, which is a just a long list of words with each word's popularity ranked relative to the word Elvis (although this includes four letter words it does not fit the N2H2 criteria that are used for blocking). Meanwhile, I can click links (in stories on Slashdot for example) that lead to pages which are not blocked although they contain content that is much more questionable than anything found on the blocked sites mentioned above. I don't want to visit pages with obscene content at work, and might even prefer a warning first or even a block to having them pop up at my desk, but filtering just doesn't work. In short, my experience using Bess is sometimes inconvenient and frustrating, and I can not determine any real benefit that it provides to me or my employer. The most likely reason it is being used is just to cover someone's ass.
  • I live up the street from the founder of N2H2.. My sister and his youngest daughter are best friends. I've seen the actual 'Bess' dog with my own eyes. All the schools around here use Bess. It's a trend that kinda scares me.. The tech people are kind of whacked out, they just set IE/NS to go through a proxy which you can easily disable. I here it's not the case in the Renton school district however. Back to my point though.. The only thing Bess would be good for is preventing random porn ads from filling up the screen and embarassing you in front of your class.. I disable the proxy on all the computers I use and I've never had the problem though. One thing that *REALLY* annoys me about Bess is that our 'district level tech' enabled search engine results blocking.. If I search for 'glass blowing' it will come up saying the page is blocked because it has the word 'blow' in it. IS THAT NOT OVERKILL? Other related searches that will come up blocked:

    - 'magna cum laude' 'cum hoc ergo proctor hoc'
    - 'blown glass' 'blow glass' 'blowing glass'
    - 'sextant' 'sexual harassment'

    The option to block based on simple URLs is also turned on, so I can't get to (sex in the url) .. The website of a university. Bess boasts that they review all the sites they block.. But they sure as hell don't tell you about the insidious options which enable blocking based on simple words.

    -Beau Gunderson
  • That would have been a reasonable argument were it not for the fact that the ban on Slashdot by cybersitter appeared after slashdot began covering cybersitter and ridiculing it. The foul language postings existed long before then.
  • But they won't have the foggiest idea WHO you are. That's the point. This demographic data, where people compare interest in site X with interest in site Y requires that you let sites look at each others' cookies.
  • We blame the criminals and thus seek to prevent them from using the tool to commit crimes in the future.

    Bravo. Clear, cogent and bang-on accurate.

    Aside from being unconstitutional

    Excuse me? Where in the Constitution does it forbid the States the authority to deny criminals the use or possession of firearms? It doesn't, not anywhere. It forbids the government from denying law-abiding citizens the possession or use of firearms; it in no way restricts the ability of the government to deny criminals the same.

    The problem with most attempts at gun control is that they use a sledgehammer to try and achieve a result which calls for a scalpel instead. Laws which overwhelmingly target law-abiding gun owners over criminals, the mentally ill, etc., are vigorously opposed by the NRA. Laws which overwhelmingly target criminal use and possession of firearms are vigorously endorsed by the NRA.

    (For real world examples... Look at the Clinton Omnibus Crime Bill, which has had an impact on almost every single competitive shooter I know; then look at Virginia's Project Exile, which has had no impact on any law-abiding citizen. The NRA opposes the former, and wholeheartedly endorses the latter.)

    The politics of gun control aren't as black and white as people make them out to be. :)
  • I'd find a) more valuable.

    If you have the specific information, you can create the general information, the reverse is not true.

  • Bullshit. The number one killer of those 18 and under is drunk driving. Lying does not support your arguement for being a liberal snob.

    Ah, but it is you who are lying you cowardly fuck.

    You lie by omission by claiming that I think that firearms deaths are the leading cause of death overall. In fact, I responded to a very different question. Drownings v firearms.

    In that case, my comment is 100% accurate. Check CDC [] if you feel the need.

    Now go back to your gun rack an get things ready. I think I hear a black helicopter coming for you.


  • But I'd rather have kids subjected to the whitelist you propose than to the secret, unaccountable blacklists actually being used. The whitelist is an obvious, visible restraint like putting a stone wall around the schoolyard to keep the kids in and criminals out. The blacklist is sneaky, like planting chips in the kids' arms that give them a shock if they go into the bad part of town.
    The biggest flaw of the blacklist is that it can be used to censor political opposition while giving the appearance of unfettered access. Your proposed plan, while much more restrictive, does not give the illusion of unfettered access and therefore preserves the clear distinction between internet access and limited, censored access.

    By the way, it's really unfortunate that some moderators are moderating posts down because they disagree with them.

After any salary raise, you will have less money at the end of the month than you did before.