Alan Harnum

Netsweeper - Response from Toronto Public Library, Possible Alternatives

Two small updates here to yesterday’s post on Netsweeper usage by public libraries in the GTA

First, I received a reply to my inquiry to Toronto Public Library from Alex Hocevar (Director, Digital Services & Emerging Technologies). With permission, I quote it below as the library’s official response to the concerns I raised (the substance was the same as what was in yesterday’s post):

Thanks for your email and for the link to the Citizen Lab research. TPL does use Netsweeper in its filtering for children’s PCs. As you mentioned the TPL technology environment is complex, however, as we move forward we will endeavor to take considerations like the one you’ve raised into account as we explore future purchases.

Secondly, Pam Ryan (TPL’s Director, Service Development & Innovation) asked me the following via Twitter, which is a totally good question:

I don’t comprehensively know the vendors in this area, but I do know of the following statements by other vendors of network management products:

There may be others - the Global Network Initiative may be a good starting point here for research.

Regarding Websense specifically, this Citizen Lab research indicates that Netsweeper stepped in to fill Websense’s withdrawal of service from Yemen over censorship issues.

I’m also obligated to mention the open source solutions that I know of for filtering:

Finally, I will reiterate my own preference would be as follows for the usage by libraries of software with so many potential ethical implications for intellectual freedom:

for libraries to bend some of their resources towards supporting the development and maintenance of open source filtering software with both public blocklists and examinable code

As a last note, I am posting this from the wi-fi of the Pape-Danforth branch. Yay for all the things Toronto Public Library does really well, like having a great branch network (and reasonably good wi-fi); I hope I can add “doesn’t use filtering software made by a company that makes a business of overseas censorship” to that list soon.