McAfee SmartFilter: you’re looking at porn

Your fancy tracking software will never hinder my mid-afternoon porn sessionsIt might not be obvious to the inexperienced eye, but right now you are looking at content from a pornographic site. Or at least, that’s what McAfee SmartFilter claimed last week. When going to the admin-section of my blog at work last Friday, our beloved content-filtering corporate proxy denied me access to everything on blog.futtta.be, telling me;

Access to this page is denied because it is referenced in a central directory of offending pages and sites and has been categorised as “Pornography”.

This ruthless diagnosis was confirmed by the online SmartFilter query application so I mailed sites@mcafee.com to warn them about the obvious mis-categorization. Kyoko from the McAfee Customer Response Team replied less then half a day later, confirming the categorization as porn was a mistake and that this blog would be reallocated to the (slightly more boring) “Technical/Business Forums”-category which, one would presume, will stand a much better chance of not being blocked by concerned corporate security officers.

Problem solved! But this does bring about some important questions about SmartFilter and similar content-filtering software (FortiGuard, ContentWatch, …);

  • How does a site get tagged as porn when it clearly isn’t?
  • What process is in place for categorization? Is there some kind of quality control?
  • As (mis-)categorization can have a huge impact on visits to a website (and so in some cases on money earned) , shouldn’t McAfee (and others) give the owners of those sites a heads-up one way or the other?

2 thoughts on “McAfee SmartFilter: you’re looking at porn

  1. frank Post author

    Kyoko from McAfee replied once more and answered that first question; “Uncategorized sites (as your site was) are first attempted to be processed by our autorating system to ensure the best coverage for our customers. While we do drive the quality of this system up and monitor it, occasionally there are miscategorizations – as this site is. We appreciate you pointing this out and have corrected this.”

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  2. DB

    One of the explanations I have received from McAfee is that when a URL is Uncategorized, then they fall back to looking at the IP address. If this address is shared by a web hosting service amongst several URLs, AND if any of those URLs have one of the “bad” categories (such as Pornography), then McAfee plays it safe and returns that “bad” category for any of those Uncategorized URLs.

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