McAfee.com, known for its anti-virus and personal firewall online security services, is getting into content filtering. Srivats Sampath, CEO of McAfee.com, confirmed the Sunnyvale-based company’s latest offering will debut Monday at a price of $29.95 per year (with a discount for current subscribers to other McAfee.com services).
“Regardless of whether people adopt this service in droves, I feel it’s the right thing for us to do,” says Sampath, father of a 10 year old son. “I have a gut feeling it will fly, because I see the email that comes in from our customers and the ones who have kids are asking for something to protect them on the web.” In addition to pornography and graphic violence-oriented websites, the service will also block known financial scam sites.
McAfee.com, a subsidiary of Network Associates, lays claim to being the biggest consumer Application Service Provider (ASP) in the world with over 520,000 paid subscribers in 230 countries. As an ASP, Sampath thinks its web screening service will have an edge over software content filtering solutions and even competing website services that he says won’t be able to keep their protection as current as McAfee.com’s. “We’re hoping to stay further ahead of active Net users by pro-actively updating our database (of inappropriate sites) on a daily basis,” says Sampath.
“They’re not the first one to offer this kind of service, but they have the greatest credibility given their size and reputation in anti-virus,” says Lawrence Magid, a Palo Alto-based technology writer who also runs SafeKids.com, a resource for families looking to surf the web safely.
Magid adds that McAfee’s challenge will be the same as all products and services that aim to filter the Internet. “I haven’t seen anything yet that doesn’t under-block or over-block websites,” he says. Adults, acting as the service administrator for their home computer, will have the ability to turn filtering on or off.
Sampath concedes filtering systems, including McAfee.com’s, are less than perfect. “We understand there are children who are more computer savvy than their parents, so we’ve added encryption and bullet-proofed the service as much as we can,” says Sampath. Still, like others, the system can easily be defeated if, for example, a parent leaves the computer on without filtering enabled, or makes his or her password available to his kids.
“The Internet is not a babysitting tool,” says Sampath. “There are many dark and unsafe places on the web just as there are in the real world. Parents have to be involved with their kids if they want to ensure their safety.”