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, 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 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?