Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube on work time? This cloud tech aims to block access

In September, more than 50 schools throughout Spain plan to employ IMT Lazarus' cloud-based mobile-device management platform.

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Should schools and workplaces be blocking net access, or teaching us how to use it?

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In an era when people use mobile devices everywhere, "Security must be dynamic and adapt to where a person is at any moment."

That's the view of Daniel Martínez de Dios, founder and CEO of Basque networking company IMT Lazarus. The firm has developed a cloud-based product to secure and manage mobile devices regardless of the environment, whether it's in business or education.

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Its cloud platform sits on top of existing management software and can control devices on private, mobile, and open networks. It can, for example, securely block access to WhatsApp, YouTube, and social networks during working hours or class times.

More than 50 schools throughout Spain plan to employ IMT Lazarus in the next academic year. Companies from sectors as diverse as food and health, as well as non-profit organizations like the Red Cross have also been trying out the service.

But that's not to say blocking and prohibiting are necessarily better than teaching how to use technology responsibly. Benjamí Villoslada, general director of technological development in the Balearic government, strongly believes that "blocking actually means renouncing the provision of digital education".

"We don't tell children to stay at home to avoid accidents but we do tell them to look to both ways before crossing a road. However, when we're talking about something digital, the answer is ban it," he says.

However, Martínez de Dios believes that IMT Lazarus' greatest asset is "efficiency, as opposed to mobile-device management tools, which can be easily circumvented by kids at school". Educational administrators can decide what to block and when.

Use of mobile-device management tools has grown exponentially in recent years because of the need to separate work and personal data. IMT Lazarus adds a new layer on top of such tools, combining the features they offer in diverse corporate software environments.

IMT Lazarus project manager Ibon Moraza says, "We work with connectivity. The client installs our software, and then all the management is done in the cloud. Everything is customizable and can be channeled through human supervisors with different sensibilities. Diverse combinations can be chosen to block content, which can also be turned on and off."

The platform also generates reports on the use of devices and the service's impact on productivity or, at least, on the time dedicated to leisure instead of work.

In the educational field, the issue of blocking access is a significant and thorny problem because schools and colleges may need to prevent students from sending messages, playing games, or even recording teachers and uploading videos to YouTube while they are in class. Those restrictions are mixed with the obligation to get the required parental permission and to comply with laws on the protection of minors and data protection, as well as the right to privacy.

Yet, restricting access is perfectly manageable, insists IMT Lazarus CEO Martinez de Dios. The platform has been conceived as an aid for entrepreneurs, educators, and parents.

"The educational market has seen unprecedented growth over the last two years and will go higher," he says. That is why being efficient and precise with the different layers of security to apply is crucial, he adds.

The company is thinking of pushing forward with location-based security and control tools. Whether we are prepared for that is another question.

Digital anthropologist Joan Mayans argues that any barrier to tame technological changes is just a temporary measure.

"If a technological change ends up being socially accepted and meaningful, barriers do not work," he says."The keyword is adaptation. Digital devices should adapt to education and vice versa."

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