Monday, January 05, 2009

Parents, schools should be wary of proxy servers; however COPA had addressed the issue

One problem with using filters could be the idea that minors could visit proxy servers, which then would deliver material to them that ordinarily be filtered. Mixx this morning (Jan 5) is offering a story by “Punch Through” that explains how this works. I note that McAfee has not rated the site yet, and I wonder what the policy toward a proxy service from a safety rating service like McAfee Site Advisor or Web of Trust should be, since the service seems to be designed to get around parental or school controls.

The descriptive page for Punch Through is here.

A home user (such as a minor) who uses this site might risk visiting a harmful site, with spyware, in the attempt to see “prohibited” content. I don’t know how anti-virus software would behave when sites are visited this way.

The COPA opinion, mentioned below, discussed the Proxy server issue, and PunchThrough's claims may not be completely correct. Nevertheless, public school administrators and information technology departments should monitor their systems (such as Internet caches) and make sure that students do not use unauthorized proxy servers. Parents should do likewise. In this environment, there is no substitute for parents who are Internet-educated themselves and tuned in to what their teenagers want to do online. Parents and schools should also use memory content-based as well as blacklist or whitelist filters, as noted below.

Furthermore, proxy server access would not get around voluntary content label filtering, as discussed before on this blog.

In the March 22, 2007 COPA Opinion (link is available on the entry for that date on this blog) and ruling by Judge Reed, Point 108 on p 35 maintains that it is difficult for minors to circumvent filters with proxy servers and cites testimony at the 2006 trial in Philadelphia. Point 109 points out that accessing a Proxy server will not avoid the effect of a filter that analyzes the content of a page once delivered to computer memory, although it might avoid blacklist or whitelist technologies.

Point 183, on p 58, discusses geolocation of access, including proxy server access, through companies like Quova, with which I once had a phone discussion. The point goes on to discuss AOL access also, with behaves like proxy access in some ways.

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