Filtering companies want business market

Once the domain of concerned parents and schools, Internet filtering software is making its way into more and more companies.SurfWatch Software, a division of Spyglass Inc.

Once the domain of concerned parents and schools, Internet filtering software is making its way into more and more companies.

SurfWatch Software, a division of Spyglass Inc. (SPYG), is the latest entrant into the fray. The company, already a leader in filtering software, plans in May to unveil a server-based product tailored at businesses. It will allow IT managers to customize filtering and monitoring features.

Judge nixes challenge to library filter suit.

"What we're seeing is more and more companies going online. They're asking for some type of protection," SurfWatch General Manager Michael Sears said.

More companies cracking down
SurfWatch's move comes amid growing media reports of companies disciplining or firing employees for inappropriate use of corporate networks. Just last week, Salomon Smith Barney Inc. fired two employees for downloading X-rated materials onto company computers.

SurfWatch expects such cases -- and the market for Internet filtering software -- to grow in the coming months as more and more employees access the Net. Sales of Internet content management products are expected to grow to $90 million by the year 2000, up from $17 million in 1998, according to the company.

Companies producing such software also include Microsystems Software Inc., the maker of Cyber Patrol; and Solid Oak Software Inc., which makes Cybersitter.

In a recent study of Fortune 1000 technology officials, SurfWatch found that about 30 percent of companies monitor employee usage in some way. Their biggest concerns are loss of productivity, clogged bandwidth, and liability issues.

To monitor, or not to monitor
Still, the issue of filtering and monitoring employee Internet use is, as Sears calls it, a "slippery slope."

Companies must decide whether they want to filter, monitor, or allow free access at all times. They must weigh employee's fears that they're not trusted against liability issues and strain on bandwidth. In a report on the issue, Giga Information Group analyst Ira Machefsky urged companies: "Do not make a 'knee-jerk' reaction to prohibit all personal use of the Internet."

Instead, he said companies can provide Internet access only to those who need it and to "err on the side of leniency."

The issue of filtering already is making its way through the courts. On Tuesday, a judge ruled that a lawsuit challenging the use of filtering software in public libraries can go forward.


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