Men: I have stated before that most of you should consider using filtering and/or accountability software. Better safe than sorry. However, I have seen few decent evaluations on the web, and some emails expressed interest in the topic, so this post is part of an ongoing evaluation.
After two weeks of evaluating candidates to replace Cybersitter on our machines, one thing is clear: Both candidates blow Cybersitter out of the water.
Candidate #1 is a combination of Integrity Online Shield filtering software and X3Watch accountability (aka. logging) software. These are installed on my desktop machine. Integrity Online Shield does a very good job of nailing bad sites, and it is outstanding at not mistaking legit sites for bad ones (aka. false positives). I have accessed hundreds of sites and it has registered one false positive so far, which was then easily added to its Acceptable Sites list. That is about as invisible as you can get! Integrity Online Shield lacks logging, which is why it recommends the complementary use of (free) X3Watch accountability software. X3Watch is installed and running, but I am not yet ready to comment on it. I expect it to be inferior to Covenant Eyes for the reasons mentioned on the Covenant Eyes site. Plus, note item 13 on that link, because this would really put a crimp in X3Watch’s usefulness (“Ground control to Integrity Online…”).
Candidate #2 is Covenant Eyes, which is only accountability software at this time (they are releasing filtering software early next year). It is installed on my laptop. Covenant Eyes generates nifty, accurate reports that are sorted for easy review by an accountability partner of your choosing (it should take this person no more than a few minutes every few weeks to scan the log). I’ve seen few false positives, despite accessing legitimate articles on topics that always confuse Cybersitter, and it does a great job of catching/logging the questionable and bad stuff. Although its FAQ indicates otherwise, Covenant Eyes does log nntp/newsgroups and file sharing (the latter, however, with just a single entry).
I recommend using a solution that offers both filtering software and accountability software. They really do complement one another. However, filtering software is the most important piece for machines used by children. Accountability software is especially useful for machines used by teens and adults, and it could be the only palatable option for singles who do not want password-protected filtering software on their machine. The thought of one’s wife, friend, or Aunt Gertrude reviewing usage logs should help most adults walk the line.
Both candidates above are installed and running without incident, so that is a wash. However, I am leaning toward the Covenant Eyes solution due to the excellent logging. Their upcoming filtering software tips the scales further. It will reportedly feature real-time content filtering, time controls, user-specific sensitivity controls, and content filtering/blocking for http, secure http, newsgroups, file sharing*, and FTP. (*File sharing is a gross violation of the 8th Commandment as used by most people… reason enough to avoid it).
I will have a final recommendation once the Covenant Eyes filtering software is released in January.