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Kid Clicks For Sale 91

evenprime writes "Zdnet is reporting that N2H2 is selling statistics from their BESS filtering software (a product designed for use in schools) to marketing companies who are interested in students' browsing habits." N2H2's stock price jumped dramatically last month when they put up a helpful website to explain how schools can comply with the new federal mandate which requires the installation of censorware. And just wait for the profit reports once Europe makes it mandatory too. Anyway, this selling-traffic-patterns story is interesting because it's the next logical step in the continuing trend to cash in on kids -- if anyone gets suspended for reading on Pepsi Day, let us know, OK?
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Kid Clicks For Sale

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Will someone explain why filtering out unwanted content in public places is wrong? Am I really going to go to the library or school to look at porn? Should I be able to? No. And neither should young children. I think we can all agree with that. The major problem I think people have is that it will filter "legitimite" sites, such as political or otherwise. Well, OK. So what? If I can't find some information at the library, I'll come home and look for it on my unfiltered PC. No problem. It isn't like the "great truth" is being hidden from the masses by this stuff. Libraries don't carry hardcore pornography on the shelves, why should they on the Net. I say it is fine, the computers are theirs, then can do what they want with them. Would you rather have limited net access or no computers at all? At least a young kid could play on the computer and get interested, maybe even become the next Linux. I say, go home and you your own PC if by bad luck the filtering software is blocking access to that one site you want to look at. I doubt this ever happens to anyone though.
  • There is absolutely no need whatsoever of corporate regulation here. The government runs the schools. The schools simply should cease using any product that behaves like this. No need for more laws or bigger government or anything like that.
  • if anyone gets suspended for reading on Pepsi Day, let us know, OK?

    I wanna say I heard something about a student getting suspended for wearing a Pepsi shirt on Coke Day, how about that? =)

    "God is Dead"
    "Nietzsche is Dead"
  • Well, you have to admit it's a little different: kids can choose not to watch cartoons. Pretty soon kids won't be able to choose not to be statistically analyzed by N2H2 during the school day.

  • I remember hearing about a case sort of like this where the school's filter records were being requested by a father who was concerned that the filters at his kid's school weren't working correctly. There was a big dustup because theoretically you could determine a lot of personal information about all of the other students from those logs (from passwords encoded in URLs, etc.). I don't recall how it worked out, though.

    I'm not sure if FOIA is the way to go, though, since most schools are operated by state or local governments. Does FOIA work on all levels of government, or just the federal level?

  • The issue with N2H2 is reminiscent of ZapMe. We have schools that are mandated by law to provide filtering, and we have students and teachers who have mandated learning outcomes that increasingly rely on (or require) the use of the Internet. N2H2 profits from the fact that many schools are unwilling or unable to fund their own filtering solutions, so they are willing to "purchase" BESS for the cost of student and faculty privacy.

    This looks like a bargain to school administrators who don't really care about these issues so long as things such as pr0n or unwelcome political views out of the doors. There are still issues about expectation of privacy and commercialization should be seriously looked at. Unlike Nielson, students and teacher cannot opt out of the system and keep their activities to themselves. So a student who considers it their right to enter an educational institution and pursue their learning *without being watched by a for-profit corporation* is just out of luck.

    In fact, this will be increasingly problematic for students, teachers, or parents who feel that there is no place for corporate presences in schools (particularly public schools). Why do you think that the Defense department bought the data? Because of the low cost, I would guess that BESS's deployment is skewed in the direction of schools with lower socioeconomic characteristics. This would happen to be the same group of schools that the armed forces spend more of their time recruiting from as the candidates better fit their recruiting targets. The aggregate data on entertainment/recreation destinations, employment destinations, politics/culture will take on increasing value as corporations look for ways to target their "partnerships" in schools so as to generate maximal returns.

    I would be interested in knowing if anyone has looked at this from the perspective of voluntary informed consent. To do any research in a school (research directed at furthering good education, not marketing) it is extremely difficult for an outside agency (such as a university researcher) to get clearance from the board of education to come in and collect data, and parents are quite skeptical. Here, for example, are Indiana's standards -- there is a case that N2H2 would need consent clearance:

    [begin quote]
    The State of Indiana has placed certain restrictions on research conducted in the public schools. The restrictions apply to personal analyses, evaluations, programs, or surveys that:
    are not directly related to academic instruction; and
    that reveal or attempt to affect the student's attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs, or feelings concerning:
    --political affiliations;
    --religious beliefs or practices;
    --mental or psychological conditions that may embarrass the student or the student's family;
    --sexual behavior or attitudes;
    --illegal, antisocial, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
    --critical appraisals of other individuals with whom the student has a close family relationship;
    --legally recognized privileged or confidential relationships, including a relationship with a lawyer, minister, or physician; or
    --income (except as required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under a program).

    [end quote]
    The N2H2 data collection meets both points. The standards that I apply to trying to perform quantitative research in the field of education are a lot more strict than those applied by marketing types, but as far as I know the stricter standards are the ones typically applied to the conduct of our school systems -- at least until some corporation looks like they are going to throw a buck or two the school's way. The important thing is that you remember that the students are generating the data *as individuals*, regardless of how the data is summarized and reported. Aggregate reporting by N2H2 is still performed through individual participation in the activities that generate the data, and the use of human subjects in research always requires the use of informed consent.

  • because of the CBE's filtering software, I believe they use CyberPatrol, the kids in the library where my friend works cannot look up websites on AIDS or breast cancer...they are jr high kids...either way, the kids lose out.


  • Ugh, I know...CNET and ZDNET now shoot from the same spring...

    Guess I'll have to stop reading both now, not that I ever read much of that FUDmaker ZDNET anyway.


  • BESS is the current censorware program at my high school [Pomona High in Arvada, CO]. Not only do they monitor surfing habits through the proxy [that's the method of filtering they use], but they count on sponsor ad clicks on every page filtered. There's a banner at the top as well as the bottom on every page that runs through the proxy. This profiteering from "helping the children" is absolutely shameless, and *something* must be done about it!
  • Doesn't this violate laws about the privacy of information on minors?


  • Why am I not surprised. I think it's time to raise the bar on taking ethics classes in college: anything less than an 4.0 and you can't graduate.

    I just had a disturbing thought: "We need someone to step and deal with this 'lack-of-ethics' problem." We need the Thought Police.
  • Yes, it is a joke. Thanks for double checking.
  • Offhand, I'd say so they know which websites to place their recruiting banner ads on... it's no secret that Army/Navy/Air Force/Marine recruitment offices target high school students, is it?
  • I know there are regulations about requesting personal information from minors on websites, but does this apply?

    On one hand they're not asking for any information directly from the kiddies, but they are apparently using their filtering software to track online usage for them. Would the kids have to be told that they're being tracked (and if so, what's their alternative if they don't want the info saved), or is it enough that the company provides no way to map their statistics back to individual minors (and how would anyone know they can't do this)?

  • I think this is pretty scary... just from the privacy implications alone

    Buddy, that ain't the half of it.
    The REALLY scary thing here is that these are just kids. They grow up with it this way and they'll never ever question it. The invasions of privacy and other abuses will just become "normal".
  • If it was legal, moral and "legitimate" why didn't they disclose their business model to the schools and students they were tracking.

    Spying is never a legitimate business model.

  • FOIA most likely does not apply to local schools. In CA we have our own California Public Records Act that would cover local schools. If the logs requested contained any information about actual students, it would be exempt as a violation of the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act.
  • Actually, no, it's paid research. They are getting paid to do market research using these kids.

    Not only are the schools supplying the company with money, but they are giving them market research which can be sold again to others. It's a great strategy if you have morals.

    One would think that this wouldn't be terribly legal, but then again, one would think that reverse-engineering would be.

  • I wholeheartedly agree, ethics is an incredibly interesting area of study, when it's not in the form of (for instance) the religous school type method of this is the way you should be. And that's what I meant by my post.
  • , Roper Starch has sold the product to only two clients: New York-based education portal BigChalk Inc. and the Defense Department.

    Okay, anyone here care to speculate why the DOD would want or care about this kind of info?

  • Many states adopted the FOIA at their state levels. Also, any local school receiving federal money would have to comply with the FOIA at the federal level.

    So pretty much any public school district (Since most do receive federal cash) must comply.

  • but I think that the way this item is posted is at least misleading. This company is selling *aggregate* data on kids browsing habits. Divided up by Census districts. That's pretty abstract. This isn't any different than the data that other companies compile on purchasing habits in meatspace. I will agree with the zdnet article in that it does seem to be creeping towards an ethical cliff. In my mind it raises the question of where this all stops. There are people who could care less if someone tracks their every move on the net and there are those who would prefer the entire experience be anonymous. As always, the truth lies somewhere in between.
  • I know this is going to generate some flame, but the only way to stop these abuses of our fundamental rights to privacy is for the federal government to get involved. We need regulation of these cash-bloated demons who would sell their grandmother's dentures as long as there was a little gold in them. Freedom of speach does NOT mean freedom to market your damn products to my child while he or she is attending class!
    Take it up with your local school board. They do not have to use this particular blocking software.

    Better yet, take your kids out of the public schools in favor of the private school that most closely shares your views on this and other matters. Or home school your kids, if you prefer.

    It sounds to me like the company's practice sucks. But we do not have to be sheep-like consumers whose only hope is to be rescued by regulation from Uncle Sam.

  • This kind of data would be useful to improve DoD's ability to recruit new members as our kids tune out mass-media and become more enamored with narrowcast media. The Pentagon spends a lot of money trying to find/attract/recruit volunteers. Apparently some of this money is be employed for market research, which doesn't seem like terrible thing to me: saves taxpayer money and may get those creepy recruiting commercials off TV and onto Brittany Spears and "Roswell" websites (thus attracting patrons of those sites to useful national service ;-) The whole thing seems preferable to me than the draft (me being a member of the last high school generation who actually had a chance at being called up). That said, as soon as my 2-year old starts getting interested in hacking the home DSL router, I'll start teaching him the principles of IP spoofing....
  • I don't remember the name of it, and I can't seem to find the related story in the Slashdot archives, but there was a law(?) passed a while back about collecting information from children on websites. The result was disclaimers on kid-related web sites, pop-ups asking you if you were at least 13, etc.

    It might be a reach, but I for one would think that if it's illegal for to know my address if I'm under 13, what this company is doing should be illegal as well.
  • I believe that portion of "ZapMe!" went down in flames a little while ago. See previous Slashdot story here []. They provided free computers to school computer labs in exchange for the right to feed ads to the students.

    They backed off their threat to force the schools to pay for their "free" computers when they pulled out, but it sounded like their creditors would sue to force them to bill the schools. I haven't heard anything since.

  • No. In the article it talks about how the new law only protects against personal information being gathered, not general statistics.
  • You forgot to link [] and Pepsi [].
    It's not really hard is it?
  • Ok let me clear that up. Yell == complain you are right raising voices would not be a good thing. I was complaining that it was wrong to promote this corporate piece of trash (Just threw in the modem comment cause I thought it was kind of funny). And yes it is a internet in that as I read in the docs they have a network on their site that then routes information to several other networks in other places. If it has routers it is more than one network talking to each other and looking like one and that is a internet.
  • That would be right. I still think I'm a good Dad. Basically at home I have a set of very carefully audited websites that I will drop him into and let him play with while I do whatever and then will sit there and help him if he wants to look at something I have not had a chance to look at. I just think he should learn and not have the corps shoving stuff down his throat. Now of course I do order the books from the things that he brings home but mostly cause they are pretty cheap. He is geeky enough though that I think the next few years might be rough. But at least his Dad understands.
  • Umm, since you asked, I think you might be an "or what". Several grounds for my suspicion:

    • It is not clear to me that yelling at the teacher or principal is an appropriate thing to do in any but the most extreme circumstance. Quiet reasoned argument would seem to be a better lesson for your impressionable child.
    • It is not clear to me whether your complaint was that it was inappropriate to send the CD home with the child; or to have the school promote a corporately owned network; or - and I suspect this was the brunt of your complaint - that the said network was available only via dial-up modem, not DSL.
    • "it is a internet". Umm, no it is not. It is neither the internet nor an internet. It is decidedly not a internet. 3/10, could do better.
  • or perhaps an internet, since (some strange quirk of english) the indefinite article used before a noun starting with a vowel is, by convention, an. Sorry. I appear to be in a pedantic mood this evening.
  • "throw off the yoke of our profit-driven, capitalist opressors."

    damn, now we're going to get a big 'i told you so' from all the 3rd-world terrorists who've been saying shit like this about america for years.

  • When you configure the Bess proxy, it gives you options of catagories you wish to block. Websites such as Slashdot as considered *hacking* sites, and not informational sites. It is somewhat true that Slashdot involves hacking, but it is a different kind and I don't think people understand the difference from cracking and hacking.

    On the other hand, I just installed cgi-proxy.cgi onto my webserver and encoded the URLs in ROT-13. Bye bye bess proxy, bye bye stat logging. You can take my trash urls, thank you. I read slashdot almost every day at school now.
  • I would just like to say that i am in a school district that uses BESS, and yes I know how to disable bess as it doesn't take an idiot to disable it, however no I would not do it because I had one run in with my school district and I don't want another. I am completely in favor of creating an open source bess equivilant and I bet we could get school districts to use it. Does anyone know of a way to use a cgi script to make it so it looks like a website like yahoo mail is coming through another site, so as to make bess shut up. I tried the anoymous surfing sites and guess what bess blocks them.
  • Actually, one kid did get caught viewing porn at my high school last year. Consequently, the school system added about blocking software packages to the servers. I'd also like to point out that it has been repeatedly confirmed by me that BESS blocks slashdot, at least before hitting refresh. I am seriously considering informing my principal of this. Even if he does nothing, he and the school system should at least be aware of the fact that N2H2 does this.
  • Yes, I agree, but do you really think that either parents or schools are going to take the time to customize their software? Many (not all, but many) parents of highschoolers today know hardly anything about computers. And the school has better things to do with its time (like teach!). So in most cases the blocking software will have the same settings at school and at home (assuming that similar software is used). I can't recall ever hearing of a filter with a "games" catagory to block/unblock. Usualy there's "porn", "drugs", "racism", and maybe "hacking". Lots of non-porn-but-otherwise-objectionable stuff ends up getting filed under "porn" for the sake of simplicity. Most censorware has a hidden and/or encrypted blocklist, so no manual editing is possible.
  • Whoops! Looks like BESS has a games catagory after all. I don't know if it's blocked or unblocked by default. Sorry for my error!
  • OK troll, I'll take the bait:
    • Not everyone has a PC at home (yes, I know it's a shock to much of the Slashdot community)
    • Some parents put the same exact software on home computers
    • Many schools force students to use the Internet at school for research, but the filtering software decreases the usability of the same Internet access
    • Do you really want some company (out to make money above anything else) deciding what's "appropriate" or not?
    And the number one reason...
    Filtering software sucks at its job (accidently and on purpose). Too much pr0n gets through, and too many perfectly fine sites are blocked (even by humans who make the list). See Peacefire [] for examples. Corruption has and will happen.
  • Run Internet Filtering companies. They say they want to do the right thing, then they pull garbage like this. When will it end? Man ... I just want to go up to these people and kick 'em sqar' in the beanbags!
  • ...what sort of bozo is going to pay $10K for a bunch of logs showing where kids web-surf? If anyone's interested, I've got loads of useless web-logs that they can have for a bargain.

  • or just do what I do and configure a public proxy server in internet options.
  • so if "Unsupervised kids don't belong on the net at all" then is it good to supervise them by shoving a bess up their ass (yes the little dog) ?

    Really most *kids* will stay out of that stuff, and whats the point of blocking it out a school if the kids can just go home and look it up there?
  • I've had some experiance with bess, mostly me telling kids how to configure a proxy server to bypass it, and getting dragged down to the office with the teachers saying "we could take you to court over this, but we will be nice" over that little damned thing they make you sign saying you won't change settings and goto *bad* sites. If they make you sign that contract type thing then why do they need to protect you against sites that you shouldn't be going to in school. If you agree not to go to these sites in a legaly binding contract. Maybe they shouldn't block out every site they can get their greesy little paws on (see for a good list) and and all other email sites, they want you to use their email service so the teachers can read all your email. "They want to see if you are involved with drugs etc". They just don't get it, the sites are blocked on opinion of the people who work for bess. Something that might be offensive to you might not be offensive to everyone else. I really don't care if the makers of bess want to sell their stats because I have chosen to not use the internet at school because its limited so much that its lost its usefulness. All of xoom, angelfire and most other free sites are blocked out, most of the personal education pages are posted on these sites, "but since there is a lot of *bad* stuff we must block out the thousands of personal web sites that have a agreement for their users to not post offencive material". Wouldn't it be cheaper and more effective to have some teacher check logs of the web sites and boot users that use it to goto these "offensive" sites ? After a few students get banned it will add a little fear to the students peers and stop most of the users from going to these *bad* sites. There is no possible way to block all the *bad* sites with filtering software, the internet is growing way to fast for that. If you can't block it all then why block part of it?
  • This is a great idea! The best part is that we already have censorware built into Linux: it's called ipchains. We don't need to develop it, just point out the advantages it offers:

    1. It's OPEN: there can't be any hidden agenda buried in proprietary code, like one flavor of censorware that blocks access to sites on womens' rights, gay/lesbian issues - and anybody that criticizes them.
    2. It's locally controlled: ipchains can have either a banned list or an accepted list, and if parents are willing to do the work of pre-screening sites, then the list can be used to fence off any part of the net if that's what the local community wants.
    3. It will encourage a healthy debate about what should and shouldn't be banned. Commercial censorware can only offer vague marketdroidspeak as to what is and isn't allowed, but a public ipchains ruleset will help to achieve consensus on what should and should not be banned.
    4. Linux runs very well on the older hardware that school have in abundance: even if the local school doesn't have a spare 486, the chances are very good that several parents will.

    The benefits are many, the costs very small. This is a good idea, so if your child's school district puts out a bid for censorware, feel free to submit Linux as the low cost alternative.


  • As a joke we once thought we'd auction off the proxy logs from our school to the highest bidder - Some of the sites these "Kids" go to are well below the generally accepted level of decency =). I imagine we'd have had a few high bids too =).
  • Is there anyone who has successfully managed to setup a web-based proxy (like in order to bypass BESS? There is NO other way to bypass BESS but I never had success installing nph-proxy.cgi on any servers I own or have access to. All the good ones, including the nph-proxy.cgi homesite are blocked by bess.
  • Jello Biafra mentions the incident on _If Evolution is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Evolve_, his last (that I know of) spoken word album to date. I think his comment was, "Let's hear it for pranks!" So maybe you did hear it, rather than just read about it in Adbusters.

    How could anyone forget that voice and things like "Wayne Kirkland! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!"?

  • This is really funny. I put that URL in. got this. Heh.

    "I have not slept a wink"

  • Your point is valid in the context you envision, but the implementation of filtering software has been a different matter. Nobody states that children should be permitted to view porn or other things that are so obviously inappropriate for minors.

    The problem is that filtering software also incorporates sites and even entire themes that extend past blocking "" towards sites that are arguably not inappropriate. For instance, how about a website about breast cancer? Might be a great way to circumvent the restrictions, after man's medical journal is another kid's porn, right?

    I don't mean to demonize the companies that make this software. After all, the pressure is on them to cast their net extremely wide so that they don't miss anything, and so they do, for many reasons. One, there's the numbers game relating to how many sites are in everyone's database. On top of that, parents are understandably emotional about the whole issue, so woe to the company whose software refuses to block what some super-tightassed parent thinks is "offensive". The problem is that there is no option to determine just what is in the blocking lists; I seem to remember a company suing an individual for developing software that enabled and end user to read the blocked list. I just can't feel good about a program that takes my willingness to block certain kinds of information in extreme circumstances and expand upon it without telling me exactly what it is doing.

  • of being Nazis!
  • I'm sorry, but have you checked out N2H2's stock price [] lately? It doesn't suprise me that this company would do this. I go to a school that chose this solution based on the idea that companies like Lucas Arts uses it. I've had nothing but problems since it got up, and I am often requesting unblocks of sites that aren't objectionable (not to mention flaming them when the block sites like Travelocity). If I want people to know where I go on the internet, I turn cookies on. If I really don't want them knowing where I go, I use another proxy.
  • Have you not noticed the current tone in ad's these days? "Our computer product is so easy that your kids wont even have to show you how to use it!"
    These current school age kids, atleast a good portion of them, know more about computers than we did at twice their age.
    When I used to work tech support *shudder*, parents would call, asking for help with a certain not-to-be-named (damn NDA's) kid protection program. Time and time again, parents would tell me they were having trouble using or configuring some of the filtering features. Well.. I'd ask.. "When you installed it, did you " and their reply (all to often) was.. "Oh! I didnt install it. My kid did. He knows so much more about that kinda stuff than i do"
    Trust me. These kids arent stupid. If even one geek exists in that school, he/sh/it will find a way around this screening and selling if they really get the urge.

  • I think it was a joke, but the study of ethics is an important part of philosophy. It's not a case of "what's right and what's wrong" as "how should we think about right and wrong" or "what did philosopher x think about ethics". A formal education in the philosophy of ethics can help you reach better conclusions in real life. In general it will make people more liberal, relativist and tolerant.
  • Gosh. Is this because the school has a shirt and tie dress code, or because it was against the grain of pepsi day? Do you have a good link to some more info about this place?
  • First of all, the title of this article is *extremely* misleading. This company is not selling "clicks" or any other type of advertising to children, nor are they providing confidential, or individually traceable information to advertisers. What they are doing, is selling statistical information about the surfing preferences of kids to potential advertisers. This article was written to intentionally put a shady, dishonest spin on N2H2's legitimate business practices and to try and spread Taco's own paranoid propaganda.

    First of all, one cannot gather "statistical information" without gathering identifiable information about individual requests (IP address, time, URL requested, response returned). Second, identifiable information frequently appears in the URL field when browsing personalized sites or sites with lots of dynamic content. Let's not labor under the illusion that it's even possible to collect "clean" data.

    That said, I want to know a few things about N2H2:

    • Why are schools paying money for a product that itself generates revenue for the software vendor? That's like paying to join an ad network.

    • How is N2H2 collecting this log data from schools? Is the collection mechanism silently built into the software, and if so was this disclosed to N2H2 software customers? (as opposed to their other customers - marketers purchasing the browsing habits of school children and library patrons)

    • What are N2H2's data retention policies? Whatever they might choose to sell, I suspect they're hoarding every scrap of data they come across.

    • Why are schools providing log data which will inevitably contain personally identifiable information to N2H2?

    I smell a class action waiting to happen.


  • Open source censorware is an excellent idea.

    The lists of blocked sites would be in an open format. This does not mean that they could not be politically motivated, there would be nothing wrong with the Christian Coalition making their own blocking list, anybody that wants to can use it, but it is also quite clear what it is blocking.

    I would hope that users of this software would be free to download blocking lists from anybody they wanted to, and to merge and intersect lists. Or even to subtract lists, thus lists of "sites that should not be blocked" would work.

    OSS programmers are much more adapt at programming complex and powerful pattern matching rules than any of the commercial houses (apparently because this is the type of software that very much benifits from the many-eyes complex). They may have the capability to produce a system that works.

    Because the lists can be reversed, people searching for pr0n might find them useful, and this may encourage pr0n providers to match the results more carefully, actually improving the censorware!

  • From what I recall, doesn't COPA (Child Online Protection Act) keep companies from collecting any data of anyone under the age of 13 years?

    Actually, it refers to personal information, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses... not aggregated information. I mean, otherwise kid oriented sites wouldn't be able to keep traffic logs and such...
  • Instead of being afraid of children and wanting to protect them from the world -- up to and including age 18+ -- try to listen to them. Talk to them. Be open with them. Don't tell them that it's wrong to look at pictures of people having sex because you said so. Tell them that it's wrong because of the conditions that desperate women undergo to achieve the dream body or the dream relationship.

    Except that instead of being against those "dirty pornographers", you'd instead be being critical of the fashion industry, politicans pushing "family values" (which equate to the idea of everyone should like one (very narrow) style of relationship. etc.
  • Will someone explain why filtering out unwanted content in public places is wrong?

    Well for starters because ths software dosn't work very well and the companies producting it are less than honest about how they compile their lists. Indeed some of the people involved appear to be exactly the kind of people children need protecting from.

    Libraries don't carry hardcore pornography on the shelves, why should they on the Net

    When it comes to books and periodicals the library need to spend money and time in buying, cataloguing, shelving, etc. When it comes to the net they need to spend extra money and time to restrict people. Some restrictions, such as preventing the installation of third party software can be worth while, in the same way that laminating book covers is worth while. Money and time is expected to reduce a much greater future expense.
  • Some parents put the same exact software on home computers

    This is something which really shouldn't happen. There are plenty of things which kids should not be using school computers for because they have no educational value or can cause problems with the computers. i.e. sites like and are legitimate to block from a school, but there's no reason why kids can't access them from home.
    Also there are political, history and news sites which might form part of the curriculum, but parents don't wish children to access from home.
  • This company is selling *aggregate* data on kids browsing habits.

    Or more likely aggregate data on school users (not all of which are children.)
  • I know this is going to generate some flame, but the only way to stop these abuses of our fundamental rights to privacy is for the federal government to get involved.

    The federal government is already involved. According to the article, one of the two purchasers of N2H2's data is the Defense Department. That doesn't give me warm fuzzies about the government's attitude toward privacy.

  • Junkbuster [] exists. Just configure it correctly :)
  • Will they be doling out statistics regarding how many perfectly legitimate sites are being blocked out by their own software []?
    But I'm sure this information will be very valuable to the marketroids who haven't figured out that kids like Britney Spears and the Backdoor Boys.
  • Disney promotes heavily around schools as well -- my mother is a 3rd grade teacher -- during the 101 dalmations blitz disney sent her an entire set of mcdonalds dalmations toys, some pc dalmation game, couple other goodies and the suggestion she distribute them to her class.

  • Will we see companies like this selling other information that their software collects? Email addresses perhaps? Names? Maybe the folks running the porn sites will want to buy these things so thay no where to send their direct marketing spam.

  • IANAL but the federal FOIA may not apply in this case - you may need to submit a request complying with Nevada law.

    I would think that since federal law overrides state law (anyone remember learning about the nullification debate in your high school history class?), the federal law would apply. Sure, Nevada may have slightly different requirements, but overall they would probably have to comply with the federal FOIA.

    Check in...OK! Check out...OK!
  • My son is in Kindergarten. The other day his teacher sends home a CD from HP for some "kidsnet" thing they have. Basically if you read the docs it dials you into a private network with content from people who have paid HP to put their content on this network. It is a internet. I don't even have a modem (I love my DSL). I called the school and yelled at the teacher and the principal. Am I a good dad or what?
  • Really most *kids* will stay out of that stuff, and whats the point of blocking it out a school if the kids can just go home and look it up there?

    Schools have a legal responsability to control what is in schools. This goes beyond the internet. That goes for language, smoking, drugs, actions, clothing, etc. Parents have a moral responsability for supervising their kids. Although I suppose it is technically "illegal" for parents to allow minors to view pornography and things like it, the chances of a parent getting sued for thousands (millions?) of dollars for that are much smaller than if a parent found out that students were able to view pornography on the 'net.

    As far as direct supervision, that may be OK in grade schools, where computer time will almost always be in a classroom environment, but middle school and high school students are more likely to be alone, in a study hall, library, or some other similar environment.

    One more reason that filtering is not a bad idea in schools... typos. Lets see, got to look up something on the president. Go to, right? Try it sometime. It may take you to one of Clinton's favorite sites, but it's definitly NOT the whitehouse.

    "Everything that can be invented has been invented."

  • Wasn't that the point of child labor laws? Exploitation of Children was defined as using them for cheap labor, another means for turning a profit. So now, let's exploit children again -- this time, exploit the supposed innocence and purity -- and turn a quick million or two.

    Good point. I wonder if that can fall under labor laws because they are profitting from the children's efforts by selling kid-clicks. If the children did not web-surf, they wouldn't have the info to sell.

    That's gotta fall under child labor.

  • Now we can finally learn how many of those annoying hidden links were posted by preschoolers!

    By the way, that ad for Oracle in the middle of the article was ridiculously large and distracting. It made it kind of tough to focus on the article. Bad trend . . .
  • As a victim of BESS, I tell you that any statistics they sell are no doubt terribly flawed. BESS blocks sites such as Slashdot, videogame related sites, and most pop culture sites; the very sites that appeal to the majority of the teenager demographic. So I end up trudging through parts of the net I would never visit normally.

    Any company that buys into this is not getting their money's worth. Sure, I'll see their adds when I'm browsing at school, but is that what they really want? I don't (and can't) make purchases from school, so is my clickthrough of any worth to them?

    Poetic justice, I guess.
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @01:48PM (#479246)
    If I was faced with those two choices as a school board, I'd take option 3: pull the net plug. There is NO reason that a grade school needs to have net access. Computers, yes, but not full net access. Maybe set up one or two networked computers in the library where they will be under the watchful eyes of librarians, so the virtual filter works as opposed to any software (or lack thereof) solution. Buy plenty of copies of the electronic encyclopedias, and I bet you can find a way that would cache a site like CNN every 2 or 3 hours so that current events could be covered. If you still want the schoolkids to use email within the school, no problem there, just block any outgoing mail.

    The key point here is, without the current mandatory filters requirement, schools can balance the parents that want tight control and the free-speech advocates by limiting the number of computers that would present such a problem to a number that can be easily monitored by a staff member; you can still have effective computer learning and research, but having full internet access for a GRADE SCHOOL child while in school is not necessary for a good education.

  • by AhNewBis ( 42974 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @01:20PM (#479247)
    From what I recall, doesn't COPA (Child Online Protection Act) keep companies from collecting any data of anyone under the age of 13 years? Ironic, considering COPA is the reasoning, IIRC, for the installing the censorware to begin with.

    Bah. This is all another form of Child Exploitation, in a completely other form. There seems to be this image of children as the great innocents, and the quintessence of purity. Ask any kid that's in Kindergarten or First Grade what bad words he's learned. Trust me, he'll be able to spew a few off already. Children aren't any purer than the parents that raise them, and the lowest common denomiator is highly frightening.

    So up come these companies: NetNanny, N2H2, what have you, and prey on the very fears of all parents -- What is my little pure one learning that he shouldn't? -- and putting a price on it and turning a profit.

    Wasn't that the point of child labor laws? Exploitation of Children was defined as using them for cheap labor, another means for turning a profit. So now, let's exploit children again -- this time, exploit the supposed innocence and purity -- and turn a quick million or two.

    Instead of being afraid of children and wanting to protect them from the world -- up to and including age 18+ -- try to listen to them. Talk to them. Be open with them. Don't tell them that it's wrong to look at pictures of people having sex because you said so. Tell them that it's wrong because of the conditions that desperate women undergo to achieve the dream body or the dream relationship. Don't obscure, explain. Children may act childish, but reports show [] that children, as young as age seven, can come to rational conclusions and informed decisions about the world around them. All they need is guidance -- not censorship. Censorship is another form of obfuscation, and as we've learned from security, code, and other other geekly things around us, obfuscation just doesn't work in the real world.

    UNICEF [] has a portion of their site dedicated to children's rights []. Included in those rights is a right to education is the right to expression and information []. Article 17 states that "Children shall have access to information from national and international sources. These materials should be beneficial, and those that are harmful to children shall be discouraged." (emphesis added). Not censored, but discouraged.

    Teach your children the truth of what they see around them. The world is not a pretty place with dancing squirrels and singing birds, where rabbits and deer talk and frolick. No, the world is always in a state of chaos -- sometimes its simply less harmful at times. Wars occur, people get murdered, men and women get raped. Children take candy from strangers every day. Give them some ray of hope though, and let them think for themselves.

    Children aren't pets or toys, they're human beings. Listen to them. Even the student teaches the master something new now and again.


  • by ahertz ( 68721 ) <> on Friday January 26, 2001 @02:17PM (#479248)
    What's really scary is who's buying this information. Look at the end of the article. Their only two clients are listed: an educational website (makes perfect sense) and...

    The Department of Defense. Why on earth does the Department of Defense need to know where kids are going on the internet? I'm scared...
  • by jgerman ( 106518 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:51PM (#479249)
    I'm sorry, I hope that this is a joke. Any class that claims to teach ethics is a waste of time. Ethics aren't learned by saying "this is wrong, and that is right" who the hell is anyone to tell anyone else how to live. Ethics should be taught as open discussion. Ungraded classes, that may be required, but are more for enlightenment than anything else.
  • by x-empt ( 127761 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @01:12PM (#479250) Homepage
    It isn't about filtering porn. It is more about the ability to view other websites. Many MANY MANY websites are miscategorized and blocked. MANY.

    And MANY MANY MANY porn sites are not blocked, in fact its VERY easy to find porn sites that are not filtered if you know what you are doing.

    Plus now N2H2 is selling information about viewing habits of children at school, when they are forced to utilize the BESS proxy by the damn stupid government here in the United States. Sadly there is too much money being slipped under the table for votes on certain issues....

    N2H2's setup is more than just blocking porn, it often blocks my access to highly informational sites about C coding and even blocks stuff on which definately isnt porn or an online store.

    Sorry, but you need to wake up and realize that it isn't all about some horny kid wanting to view porn in public.

  • People are going on and on about why this is scary because it is selling out our children to corporations. I think these people are missing the point.

    The real scary thing is at least some of these children are going to be reading Slashdot and clicking on links here...and when they do, and the marketting drones finally get this information, we are going to have...Goatsex Cola!

  • by tagishsimon ( 175038 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:54PM (#479252) Homepage
    Umm yes, I think this was what jamie might have been alluding to. The person suspended was Mike Cameron, the school was Greenbriar High School in Evans, Georgia.

    "I know it sounds bad - ' child suspended for wearing Pepsi Shirt on Coke Day' said principal Gloria Hamilton. "It really would have been acceptable...if it had just been in-house, but we had the regional president [of coke] here and people flew in from Atlanta to do us the honour of being resource speakers. These students knew we had guests." - quote from No Logo [], Naomi Klien, page 95.

  • by tagishsimon ( 175038 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:49PM (#479253) Homepage
    According to Naomi Klien, in her most excellent tome "No Logo [], (page 94) a company by the name of ZapMe! [] does much the same thing:

    "...the in-school computer network ZapMe! doesn't merely seel advertising space to its sponsors: it also monitors students' paths as they surf the Net and provides this valuable market research, broken down by the students' sex, age and zip code, to its advertisers."

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @01:16PM (#479254) Journal
    ... schools are operated by the Federal Govt.

    Ummm... last time I checked, virtually all publis schools are operated by local authorities, including the Las Vegas / Clark County School District. IANAL but the federal FOIA may not apply in this case - you may need to submit a request complying with Nevada law.

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @01:21PM (#479255) Journal
    Well, though they did provide nice fodder for press and authors looking for the thousands of ways America's youth are being raped by corporate America, ZapMe recently found itself fucked. [] Now it appears that they're "committed to creating advanced vertical networks for small to medium-sized businesses worldwide," whatever that is.
  • by atrowe ( 209484 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:53PM (#479256)
    First of all, the title of this article is *extremely* misleading. This company is not selling "clicks" or any other type of advertising to children, nor are they providing confidential, or individually traceable information to advertisers. What they are doing, is selling statistical information about the surfing preferences of kids to potential advertisers. This article was written to intentionally put a shady, dishonest spin on N2H2's legitimate business practices and to try and spread Taco's own paranoid propaganda.

    What N2H2 is really doing here, is neither illegal, or immoral, but a perfectly reasonable business practice. Here's a fact: More children than ever are surfing the web these days. N2H2 is simply providing advertisers with a list of children's web-surfing habits and tendancies. They are in no way providing any information that could be used to trace individual surfers in any way. Television networks have been using this type of targeted advertising geared towards children for years. This is why commercials for cereal and action figures come on during Saturday morning cartoons. I am deeply offended that Taco would try to spread these slanderous lies!

  • Why don't we start an open source project to build a free software censorware product? I know. It's kind of oxymoronic, or maybe just moronic ;-) -- but bare with me here.

    Think about it! Schools and libraries don't want censorware, and the American Library Association [] is challenging [] this law.

    We don't want censorware either: it doesn't work, and the companies that make it often push radical conservative political agendas, that target a lot of ideas near and dear to us.

    So let's make our own product. By controlling the development, we could make certain that the blocked sites list is as minimal as possible to satisfy the legal requirement. The ALA, schools, and libraries would like it for being

    a) FREE software (budgets are important, after all), and

    b) software that is made by people who are friendly to free speech.

    In the meantime, we all continue to support the legal challenges. But in the event that the ever more conservative Supreme Court upholds the law, we also have a weapon to use in holding censorship at least in check. If someone is going to do censorship, then let it be a civil libertarian.

    I'd be willing to work on such a project. I think I would enjoy sticking it to CyberSitter -- they once blocked the site of a friend of mine because he's pagan, and especially because he dared take a public stance against them.


  • I think N2H2 execs must not understand that The Simpons is a tragicomedy, and the episode on using kids' ideas and behaviour for marketing by subverting the school should *not* be the foundation for revenue streams.

    They claim no schools have cancelled their service due to this. Did any of the schools KNOW about this? Is this tied to that wave program that got exposed during the initial voices from the helmouth series?
  • by cowboy junkie ( 35926 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @01:17PM (#479259) Homepage
    Unless you can organize a substantial base of parents and community members to support you, you are pissing in the wind.

    If you are a school district, what scares you more?

    1. The threat of ultra-conservative/liberal parents suing you for their kids accessing pornography, Neo-Nazi message boards, or a chat room that hooks them up with a potential child molester...


    2. The threat of free speech zealots suing you because kids can't access some legitimate sites.

    What most folks don't understand is that outside of the federal $$ issue that has recently appeared, most school districts have installed blocking software already to cover their asses in case of lawsuit (and districts are easy targets). Even if the stuff is flawed, at least a district can argue that they installed the best available safeguards.

    While there are certainly an incredible amount of great sites that are blocked by proxies like Bess, you have to understand that a district isn't going to get sued because a student *couldn't* access a site.
  • by Trevor Goodchild ( 187368 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:54PM (#479260)

    I am continually shocked at our consumerist society, especially when it targets our poor, impressionable children. The corporate dominance of US culture must end at once. If selling traffic analysis of children's web viewing habits while at school isn't the last straw we need to motivate us into action then I fear our society of individual freedoms may be lost.

    I know this is going to generate some flame, but the only way to stop these abuses of our fundamental rights to privacy is for the federal government to get involved. We need regulation of these cash-bloated demons who would sell their grandmother's dentures as long as there was a little gold in them. Freedom of speach does NOT mean freedom to market your damn products to my child while he or she is attending class!

    It is truly sad that we have reached a point in history where it is now unavoidably necessary for us to encourage further governmental control of some of our communications mediums. But, there is simply no other way for us to throw off the yoke of our profit-driven, capitalist opressors.

  • by BilldaCat ( 19181 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:56PM (#479261) Homepage
    >> First of all, the title of this article is *extremely* misleading

    >> This article was written to intentionally put a shady, dishonest spin on N2H2's legitimate business practices and to try and spread Taco's own paranoid propaganda.

    >> I am deeply offended that Taco would try to spread these slanderous lies!

    You're new here, aren't you?

  • by x-empt ( 127761 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @12:55PM (#479262) Homepage
    You can gain access to this same information by utilizing the Freedom of Info act, since schools are operated by the Federal Govt.

    Below is a letter I recently sent to my school district in Las Vegas, NV:

    Freedom of Information Officer
    Network Services
    Clark County School District
    2832 E Flamingo Rd.
    Las Vegas, NV 89121

    Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

    Dear officer:

    Under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) I would like to request the following materials from the Clark County School District (CCSD):
    1) All documentation regarding the implementation of the Bess web proxy system provided to CCSD by N2H2. Including proxy configuration, network topology after installation, and the reasons for the Bess installation.
    2) All access logs that are recorded by the Bess proxy filter. These logs should be provided in digital form, compressed using either ZIP or gzip compression algorithms.
    3) Documentation regarding the effectiveness of Bess at blocking Internet sites deemed inappropriate for minors and sites that have been mis-categorized by Bess.

    I am aware that I am entitled to make this request under the Freedom of Information Act, and if your agency response is not satisfactory, I am prepared to make an administrative appeal. Please indicate to me the name of the official to whom such an appeal should be addressed.

    If my request is denied, I am entitled to know the reasons for denial.

    I am aware that while the law allows your agency to withhold specified categories of exempted information, you are required by law to release any segregable portions that are left after the exempted material has been deleted from the data I am seeking.

    I also request a waiver of all fees for this request. Disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government, and is not in my commercial interest. I am classified as noncommercial news media under the Freedom of Information Act.



    Anyways, they responded back by sending me marketting materials from N2H2. Well, its time to re-request the information and "be more specific."

    Anyways, this does work well for pissing them off and scaring them to death, plus you can see how ineffective the filters really are.

  • by drDugan ( 219551 ) on Friday January 26, 2001 @01:09PM (#479263) Homepage
    I think this is pretty scary... just from the privacy implications alone.

    Lets summarize the situation:
    • The government requires kids to go to school.
    • Schools require kids to use the Internet.
    • Govenrment requires special software in schools to monitor the actions of people there while online.
    • Sellers of the software can do whatever they want with the data, without any oversight.
    • The people being monitored (the schoolkids) have no say or recourse to affect the situation.

    Doesn't sound so cool does it?
    Where does the line get drawn for what is OK to watch and monitor and what is private?

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson