Topic 71 of 109: monitoring your surfing habits?
Tue, Jun 26, 2001 (12:01) |
Paul Terry Walhus (terry)
Monitoring web usage is getting more common in the workplace.
What are your thoughts on being monitored when you surf the net?
1 response total.
Topic 71 of 109 [web]: monitoring your surfing habits?
Response 1 of 1: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Tue, Jun 26, 2001 (12:01) * 20 lines
Lessons in Web Monitoring
In their struggle to balance free access to the Internet with restrictions on pornographic and other inappropriate sites, schools, and libraries, and other institutions have been experimenting with filtering software and privacy screens. Lyndon Baines Johnson High School in Austin, Texas, however, has come up with a novel method that has shown promise: let students police themselves.
Students had open access to the Internet from 1995, when the student-run network was launched, to mid-1997. Then, concerns over how students were using the Web, plus "legal precedent (and advice) convinced us that the school would have to be responsible for the students' browsing habits," network administrator Jacob Leverich (a student at the school) writes in a report on Web access policies at the school.
Spurred by parents' concerns, network administrators began personally monitoring the computers and keeping an eye on the students using them, but the network soon became too large to continue this practice (the school now has about 275 computers). They considered filtering software, but it was rejected as too expensive and too easy for savvy students to disable. Moreover, that solution wouldn't work for student laptops plugged into one of the school's Ethernet ports, and filtering software "gave users much less benefit of the doubt than we were comfortable with," writes Leverich in his report.
The school ultimately decided to log student (and staff) Internet usage without attempting to block it. But network administrators wanted to make sure that users were accountable for the sites they visited. Leverich and a former LBJ student, Peter Jensen, wrote a PERL script (programming code) to analyze some of the content of any Web address being accessed by a student. A ten-student team of network administrators, overseen by teachers, monitors Internet usage by the school's 1,400 students using this program. Students are also asked to sign a usage policy before they can begin using a school computer. It bars visits to inappropriate Web sites.
If a site detected by the monitoring software is deemed objectionable, the script sends an alphanumeric message to Leverich's pager that contains the URL, the time of site access, and the computer the request came from. "Most times, this is enough to go on," Leverich notes via his e-mail interview with Security Management.
Leverich can easily differentiate between www.teensex.com and www.oilersexclusive.com, which though it seems to contain the word "sex" in its name, is really about football. If the site seems inappropriate, Leverich or someone else on the team talks with the student and confirms whether the site actually is objectionable and whether the student had a legitimate academic purpose for visiting that Web domain.
As students started getting caught on questionable sites, Leverich explains, word of mouth spread the news that Web usage was being monitored, and the number of pornographic, violent, and other inappropriate sites being viewed dropped immediately.
Although technical problems have cropped up and the administrative burden has been considerable, Leverich notes, network administrators "have found the time spent dealing with each event a suitable price for freedom of access for the time being."