Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dear BoingBoing...

If you've ever checked out my blogroll, you might have noticed that I read BoingBoing on a regular basis. Most of their posts are pretty interesting, but they seem to have a chip on their collective shoulder when it comes to a certain Internet content filtering product. Their most recent post on the subject really got my attention.

In response, here is an open letter to the editors at BoingBoing.

Dear BoingBoing,

I'm right there with you when you cover issues of government-sponsored censorship. Censorship is contrary to the ideas of freedom and democracy. But it's not censorship when the administrator of a corporate or privately-owned network enforces a policy on how their network should be used. In most cases, that's just good security management. Please don't confuse the issues, because it weakens your position when you speak out about legitimate abuses.

WebSense isn't censoring you. WebSense doesn't censor anyone. All they do is categorize websites, and it's up to their individual customers to create and enforce filtering policies based on those categories. In this latest case, the site archive.org does in fact offer software downloads and is correctly categorized. And whether or not you agree with the idea, as a security pro, let me assure you that filtering such sites is a very reasonable thing to do for many organizations, especially those that have policies against installing arbitrary software.

Of course, as you're finding out, filtering technology isn't perfect. Sites are misclassified or simply not categorized at all. Filtering software can be bypassed, fooled or even brought down. That does not mean that it is worthless and evil, however. Every little bit helps, and the technology improves each day (albeit slowly).

Anyway, thanks for all your hard work on BoingBoing. I do enjoy reading most of what you write, but I hope you'll keep my points in mind next time you write a story about Internet content filters.

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