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Kudos1 Stats

Parental controls - biased filtering

I have to say, I'm very disappointed in Norton Core's parental filtering.  I bought the device because I wanted to exercise some control over the content my children can access from our network, and the promise of built in parental controls was exciting.  Just for disclosure, I have used and continue to use multiple other forms of parental control systems.  As an example, I have a Zyxel unified security gateway on my wired network, and I also have used Circle, and Open DNS.  I wanted to move to the Core for my wireless network because solutions like Circle and Open DNS have issues with complexity and sometimes just plain don't work.  So as I said, I had high hopes for Core.

Right out of the gate, I was mildly miffed because Core by default disables the "Religion" category for every age category.  That's funny, because for the older kids it doesn't disable categories like crime, or mature content, or cyber-bullying for the older kids.  But religion - oy vey - Norton apparently feels we need to build a fortified wall to keep that out.  For a person of faith - any faith - that's just offensive.

Suppose, however, we just decide to look beyond that, and just enable the category.  No harm no foul right?  Wrong.  Because in addition to blocking religion, Norton's content filters also radically misclassify many sites and lump major christian ministries, and even whole denominations, into the cult category.  I'm not talking obscure sects, here, I'm talking about major figures like Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer - all are identified as cults.  The case of Billy Graham is particularly egregious - he was a pastoral advisor to every president since world war II...  Yet Norton proclaims his organization a cult.  And not just his - other major churches such as Rick Warren's Saddleback, and Greg Laurie's Harvest also get this treatment.  In fact, entire denominations get this treatment.  The international foursquare church - fast growing Christian denomination world wide and hardly a cult by any measure gets blocked.  So does Assemblies of God.  And almost every branch of Lutheranism.  I honestly lost count of the number of actual denominations - most of which are established mainline churches - that Norton blocks as cults.  But I will say this: so thoroughly stupid is Norton's blocking that they even block the websites of small local churches, even those associated with mainline denominations.

What is NOT blocked under cults:  Well, scientology, for starters.  The Unification Church.  The Family (Children of God).  Branch Davidians.  Aum Shinrikyo.  The Manson Family.  Heaven's Gate.  As a matter of fact, so extensive is the list of actual, recognized cults left out of Norton's cult classification that one could be forgiven for thinking that the actual inclusion criteria is not being a cult.

I want to point out that not one of the other products I have used suffers from this disturbing level of mis-classification.  As a matter of fact, they have all been pretty much spot-on.  Of the four products I have used, only Norton seems to think that every major mainline Christian denomination and ministry is a cult, while simultaneously giving a hall-pass to actual real cults, many of which have been involved in mass tragedy and the taking of human life.

The worst thing about Norton's classification system by far is this: they offer NO mechanism by which these egregious classification failures can be corrected or even reported.

Replies

Kudos1 Stats

Re: Parental controls - biased filtering

I have to laugh: Norton even blocks the Vatican as a cult.  And Catholic.org.  And let's not leave out other world faiths - Norton thinks mainline Islamic organizations are cults too.  As it does for most major Jewish organizations such as chabad and aish.  Are you jewish and wanting to visit the website of your Synagogue?  Better not enable Norton parental controls - Norton seems to want to send you the message that you are in a cult.

I spent the better part of a day testing this out, and I have to say that from my perspective, the least likely organizations to be identified by Norton's parental controls as cults would appear to be actual cults.  But if you are Jewish, or Christian, or Catholic, Islamic, well, Norton seems pretty confident you belong to a cult.  As a matter of fact, it seems that in the Norton universe, Religion = Cult.  And they are thorough about it.  If you attend even a small local church, or a synagogue, or a mosque, well... Norton thinks nobody should be accessing your web site.

At the very least, this is a pretty egregious quality assurance oversight for a major corporation.  But Norton, let me tell you how this will smell to many people of faith: like bias.

This needs to be corrected before it turns into a full-fledged public relations disaster.

Kudos2 Stats

Re: Parental controls - biased filtering

@tt92618 - Thank you for the thorough analysis of that category. I've alerted our team to review the category for the content. I've also let them know about your suggestion on reporting or manually modifying the categories. We appreciate the feedback on this new product.

Tony Weiss | Norton Forums Global Community Manager | Symantec Corporation
Kudos1 Stats

Re: Parental controls - biased filtering

We have received feedback that some users of our parental controls have had unintended results for one category. We have since learned that for this category multiple filters were mistakenly applied instead of one, and we are now correcting this.  We take customer feedback seriously at Norton and appreciate users raising the issue.  We look forward to enhancing the product to better meet your family’s security needs.

Tony Weiss | Norton Forums Global Community Manager | Symantec Corporation
Kudos1 Stats

Re: Parental controls - biased filtering

@tt92618 - can you be sure that you're updated to the the latest Norton Core firmware, then check this issue again? Our team made some changes that will hopefully resolve these issues for you. Thanks.

Tony Weiss | Norton Forums Global Community Manager | Symantec Corporation
Kudos0

Re: Parental controls - biased filtering

It seems to work with the latest Norton Core firmware for me.  Religious sites don't seem to get blocked by the cult category.  Ex. VaticanState.va.  I also tried another local church site and it works.

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