Smart card helps parents filter Web

PubliCard Inc. unveiled a smart card and Web-filtering solution that lets parents choose filtering levels for their children.

Hudsonville, Mich.'s Gary Byker Memorial Library, which started offering Internet access in November 1998, will be one of the first users of the SmartGuardian system, developed by the Amazing Smart Card Technologies, a division of PubliCard.

"We have a lot of kids in the library [who] were on sites parents wouldn't approve of," said Melissa Huisman, the library's director. Librarians had to constantly walk by the younger users, monitoring their Internet usage. "It's really raised the stress level of the staff," Huisman said.

After a public outcry, the library searched for a filter that would cut out some harmful sites for kids while meeting a requirement of unrestricted access for adults. "We were searching for something that met both needs," Huisman said.

The library chose SmartGuardian. The solution includes filtering software that resides on a Web server, smart cards and a card-issuing station made up of a digital camera and a card printer. The solution also equips each of the library's seven patron computers with a smart card reader.

SmartGuardian gives parents options when choosing what level of filtering they want for their children, and filter levels are stored on the smart cards. If they are extremely concerned about the sites their children have access to, they can choose a list of 15,000 pre-approved "safe harbor" sites.

With a different level of access, parents can also choose to enable any of 27 categories of Web content. For these categories, the filter monitors the language on Web sites the children attempt to access. If any blacklisted words are found on a page, the filter will restrict the site before returning any information.

The SmartGuardian system also has built in time limits. At the Gary Byker Memorial Library, all patrons using the Internet will get one hour of surfing time. Once the hour is up, the system shuts the browser down. It is restarted for the next patron.

Huisman said SmartGuardian will take the library out of deciding what sites are or aren't approved. She expects the system to be completely integrated by mid-September. It also means librarians don't have to police the children anymore. "I never expected this in library school," she said.

Huisman estimated the cost at $28,000 to $30,000. By comparison, their annual book budget is $18,000. Huisman said they have had a lot of donations to help pay for the system.

A similar implementation of the SmartGuardian system is being used at the Englewood Public Library in Colorado.

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