It’s a great idea. It is intrusive, but not restrictive. I read that they are coming out with a blocker, which is probably good for some.
I would like to help out in this arena. Maybe come up with a product of my own that works with Covenant Eyes or some other tool that helps to combat pornography and other troubles on the internet.
I see 3 main features:
1 – a scanner that logs traffic
2 – a filter that rates content
3 – a blocker that prevents inappropriate actions
I see immediately that it has commonality with other tools, both legitimate and nefarious. Obviously it has similar features to anti-spam and anti-virus tools. Just as obviously it has great similarity to the spyware tools that the spammers and hackers use. But just as packet sniffers (another commonality) have good as well as bad uses, so can this. Tools for corporate governance and enforcing traceability compliance policies also use these features.
What I want is to be able to use Covenant Eyes on Linux. Or an iPod. Or anything else unsupported. And it’d be even nicer if I didn’t have to install it. Or worry about circumvention. Anti-circumvention is another, somewhat less obvious feature that a tool like Covenant Eyes has. And it’s also one that corporate policies spend a great deal of time on. The difficulty of anti-circumvention is a great value add.
The other big one I see is the accuracy of the filter list, but I don’t have the resources for that. Utilizing the manpower of the internet is one way to do that, but I’d rather leave that task to someone else. There’s too much incentive to be proactive, and while those who are still struggling, or who are honest but do not see it as a personal moral problem could help, I could not have it on my head to ask them for it.
Non-intrusiveness or avoiding draconian restrictions is a nice to have as well. Corporations and other large organizations do this by externalizing their monitors. Place them at the network edges by your routers.
Or on them!
A lot of homes have dedicated routers nowadays. They connect to the cable box or are used for local Wi-fi networks. What if I put a linux image on a router (like a Linksys WRT-54GL) and installed a reverse proxy server, a packet sniffer, etc. and set it to ping a server. That’s pretty good anti-circumvention. And I could even include anti-virus and anti-spyware/rootkit controls. Regular security features.
I think I could recreate this using mostly open source, some glue and reporting, and a central server. If I could work out a deal with Covenant Eyes to use their filter for bulk, or license my software for them to distribute (I’d prefer the former), I’d have a pretty useful product. An always-on router is even easier to ensure is tamper proof and it takes a higher level of tech savvy to circumvent.
This isn’t a new idea. I’ve been tossing it around for months as a project I’d like to implement.
The problem is getting the time. I’m sure I could overcome most of the technical hurdles in a few months, and it’d probably be best to find others with more knowledge of particular products and security to help. I don’t know how much I could afford to pay them, though.
Another added benefit of externalizing the scanner is you don’t have to worry about trusting the software installed on your PC. If you don’t trust it, unplug the router, re-image it, replace it or whatever. You don’t lose anything on your PC. Even if you find out I’ve been sniffing your credit cards when you buy from Amazon, and spamming your grandma and everyone else you email, it’s a non-catastrophic operation to root me out. Antivirus programs on your computer should be able to detect trojans I wrap around your downloads.
Not having to trust your accountability / big-brother app is a huge plus.