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EdTech Update




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Filtering and hyper-compliance

GLENDOWER I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

HOTSPUR Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?

Henry IV, Pt 1

The guy that does my taxes says that good citizens pay every penny they owe in taxes - but not one penny more. That pretty well summarizes a sensible view of compliance with any law. Follow it, but don't go overboard. A driver is not more law-abiding by going 10 mph under the speed limit.

Unfortunately, too many technology decision-makers "hyper-comply" with CIPA. A great example is the current flap over Google enabling encrypted searches for materials. In some weird, paranoid logic, the readwriteweb folks think this violates CIPA since such searches can't be monitored. (The websites found are still blocked.)

CIPA, just as reminder, only says:

"The protection measures must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene, (b) child pornography, or (c) harmful to minors"

Nothing about monitoring - period.

Some school districts (San Diego) have just flat out blocked any sites that use SSL, encrypting data sent - which honks off, I guess, the more Orwellian techs. Since GoogleApps in Education uses SSL (aren't we supposed to be protecting users' privacy?), schools have been blocking GoogleApps as well.

No filtering attempt works 100% - even filtering companies admit this. Kids use proxies. Kids have their own devices with 3/4G connectivity. Kids take computers home and cache web pages. New nasty sites or old nasty sites with new web addresses appear. Just like a school cannot 100% guarantee a kid will never get hurt on a playground, a school cannot 100% guarantee a kids will never be exposed to pornography*.

Smart schools practice "due diligence." This means filtering at a reasonable level. It means ADULT monitoring of student computer use. It mean having, teaching and enforcing an understandable AUP (or Responsible Use Policy). It does not mean using any crackpot CIPA scare tactic to block access to useful information, tools and experiences.

Due diligence can have a different meaning to reasonable people. But relying on over-blocking by web filters alone is not due diligence.

* Postman's "one big room" theory seems to be increasingly prescient.


Thanks, Geezer Online.



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Reader Comments (4)

Well put. A similar thread emerged on our state technology listserve.

I asked folks to think hard about why proxies exist in the first place.

People's responses bounced back and forth from "searching porn" to "hacking" etc.

I asked them to think about "human rights" as a possible reason why people design proxies in the first place. It gets interesting when the folks trying to "protect children" and those working to "protect human rights" are working against each other. It's even more interesting now that Google has stepped up and created a giant hole in all of the filtering products by simply adding the letter "s" to an address. I'm looking forward to next fall when K12 technology directors join forces with the Chinese government to cry foul on Google making the Internet better.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Pederson

Thanks Doug for taking the time to put down my thoughts :)

I totally agree with what you are saying here. CIPA is the law we should follow. If you feel that you are morally obliged as a school district to go beyond that law, then clearly state that you are doing so. Tell the public that your are choosing to CENSOR the materials you provide your teachers and students. Don't just blame it on a law that few have read and even fewer understand.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHenry Thiele

@Henry--My thoughts exactly!! We should have a poster like this
prominently displayed in schools, especially on parent night or for parent events. LOL. (Thank Fran Bullington for posting that!!)

@Doug--great post as always.

June 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Nelson

Hi John,

Good to hear from you. The whole privacy vs control tension will grow, I think. Too many of us tech directors are mini-dictators. Why is that?

Have a great summer,


Hi Henry,

And I don't even care if districts do filter more than is required - so long as there is a transparent, group decision involved and resources that are blocked get some sort of challenge process applied to them. (My library background, I think.)

All the best,


Great poster, Cathy Jo!


June 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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