Work Internet use policies/blocked sites: your experiences?

Our office has apparently started blocking certain sites (so far not the SDMB), and so far I can’t figure out their blocking criteria at all.

I frequently have to research stuff online for work-related reasons (technical terminology, legal stuff, job duties, pretty much anything under the sun), and every once in a while I will click a link on a Google search and get a message that “this site violates our corporate use policy; please contact user support if you feel this message is in error.”

So 1) how am I supposed to know whether the site should indeed be blocked, if I don’t know what it is because I can’t access it? And 2) in your experience, how likely am I to get in trouble with IT for attempting to access things which are blocked? I seriously can’t contact IT about every blocked link; usually when I’m doing this sort of online research, it’s because I’m in a big, fat, work-related hurry to lay my hands on some information that I need to finish my work, and don’t have the leisure of waiting around for my client to cough up the goods, or they have consistently provided information which doesn’t quite address my needs so that I can address their needs properly and in a timely fashion.

So far (since last week) they seemed to have blocked RealPlayer, which on one hand, I can understand, because they don’t want to eat up bandwidth with streaming audio; they even sent an e-mail message that use of streaming audio on work computers was prohibited. But why should they care if I use RealPlayer just as a jukebox to play my own CDs? There is no policy on listening to music in one’s own office, provided it doesn’t disturb anyone else…

So this is part rant, and part question: has anyone else run into this issue? How did your employer handle it, and how did you handle how your employer handled it?

For some reason I can’t open the page to search the Straight Dope archive. Porn, dontcha know.

But a friend of mine gave me the address of his webpage, which has, among other things, a bunch of nudie pictures on the very front page. Not blocked. Imagine my surprise when Trixie and her girlfriends entered my office.

But I haven’t gotten in trouble yet and I’ve been blocked from many a page, so I’m not terribly worried.

I haven’t run across any sites which I’ve been forbidden to access (I get a lot of “method not allowed” errors but can always retype the URL and get in). My employer has a “no personal internet usage except on breaks and lunches” policy which I think is patently absurd. As long as I’m meeting my job responsibilities why should they care if I’m online? We sell unlimited high-speed internet access for $35 a month so obviously the cost of providing unlimited access is less than a dollar a day. I cost the company more every day in toilet paper. I know the cost isn’t the point, not getting sued for sexual harassment because employees are downloading porn is, but it still irks me.

We run into this problem on occasion. The most recent was when one of my employees was trying to find a source for toilet specifications (we administer construction contracts), and the server blocked the search because ‘toilet’ is a forbidden word. Sheesh.

I’ve heard where I work, you can’t access anything that has the word “fantasy” in it, so people are blocked from fantasy baseball sites.

I did a post a while back basically saying so long to everyone because they blocked the Straightdope site at work, and I rarely visit here from my home computer. Someone suggested going to the forums directly and it worked. I can’t access the home page or Cecil’s columns, but I can get here…go figure

Do you know what software your company is using to block the sites? While you can create your own filter fairly easily, updating the URL list is a full-time job so most companies buy a 3rd party package which receives URL lists automatically.

I took care of the internet blocking at my old workplace, where we used Websense. Websense blocks by catagories and sub-catagories. For example, the Adult Content catagory would have sub-catagories such as “Nudity, Pornagraphy, Sexual Health, Swimsuit, etc…”. All or some of these could be blocked at the Sys Admins direction.

Sometimes we would get an improperly filed website, and after it was reported to Websense it was quickly fixed with the next daily update.

We use Websense here. It blocks alot of good and funny stuff under the category “Tasteless” and it also blocks by gaming guild’s website under the category “Sex and Pornography” for some reason. It also blocks the ports on alot of online games.

I set up a Proxy server on my home computer though and I use SocksCap to get around all that security.

Websense is not a port blocker. Your work has a firewall doing that.

I’m actually the guy in our tech department that manages the server that does all our internet filtering. It filters on catagories that are created and maintained by the company we purchased service/software from. The company we use is called SurfControl. I work for a hospital so we naturally allow the catagories of “Health & Medicine”, “News” and “Education & Research” and end up blocking “Adult”, “Glamor & Apparel”. . . . the list goes on.

The problem we run into and I imagine is what you are running into as well is that sites can get catagorized wrong from the start or swiched from one catagory to another or not be catagorized at all. I got two requests today to recatagorize a medical journal site that was incorrectly labeled as “Personals & Dating”.

I guess what I’m saying is that I feel your pain (It’s a pain for me too sometimes, “What ! Microsoft isn’t a PORN site! All I want to do is download this patch you stupid filter. . .AHHH” ) and from my experience the guys doing the filtering have a pretty pain in the neck job to do maintaining everything along with keeping the masses happy. . . . .

I can’t get to from work.

They even blocked access to my kids’ school’s website. I questioned that one, and they unblocked it.

I worked for a company that blocked a number of our competitor’s* websites, as well as job-seekers’ websites.

I’m assuming that there was a connection between the two, since I can’t imagine any other reason they’d want to keep us from looking at what the competition was about.

Pretty stupid, in my opinion.

Ours is so far pretty liberal. However, the policy is 10 access attempts to blocked sites in 24 hours = an email to your supervisor. I’ve gone to a couple of sites lately, one for movie showtimes another for musical artist biographical information, that have tons of ads all over the page that are blocked. The ads are probably for porn or something but if there are 20 little ads all over the page and 11 of them are blocked, I get hosed for going to one stinking page!


Same problem at my work, and I don’t have an answer other than what I did.

Bought a lap-top.

ebay is blocked from my work PC, as is the Georgia Lottery. Also can’t get any games unless I go in the back door. Example: I can only get Texttwist if I search for it on GOOGLE and then choose the Shockwave version. I used to be able to get to it from Yahoo.


We can’t access anything classified as “entertainment” including the Dope!

I can access CNN, but if I click on the “entertainment” button, it gets blocked, but if I click on a story under the button, I can get through.

Our computers at school block “controversial content” as well as the standard sex, drugs, rock and roll, etc. For some reason this means that the websites of ACLU and Amnesty International are blocked, but I could still access sites like, (the old website of the Chechen rebels; I don’t think it’s up these days), and various white supremacist groups.

This provided us with a bit of a laugh for the thirty seconds or so it took us to get around the filters.

I’m the IT manager where I work and I’m getting ready to put the whole office on a transparent caching/proxy server which I’ll also (reluctantly) use to filter 'net access. My boss originally wanted me to use Websense but I refused and instead we’re going with Squid + Squidguard on a Linux box. I wanted to do it this was for several reasons. Mainly because Squid is a kick ass webcache and I wanted this silly exercise to serve some purpose. Also because he’ll only be able to see the usage data I want him to see, which gives me a chance to be subversive.

If he got his way we’d block anything and everything on the 'net vaguely personal (including various webmail services, this board if he knew about it etc…) but I’ve refused to implement such a draconian policy right away. Instead I’ve told him we need to get a few weeks of usage data as a baseline before we started doing any filtering whatsoever, so we can better know what sites are being abused before we start doing any filtering.

First off I’m going to start running the proxy server about two weeks before I tell him it’s ready. Being a transparent proxy no one will know when I’ve turned it on, the router will just hijack their web connections and push them through my proxy/cache machine. That way I can see what people are doing, including him, before they know they are being watched. Then I’ll tweak the logging features so that he looks like the biggest abuser of the 'net connection. I know he screws off a lot online anyway so it won’t be much of a stretch. That report should kill his plans to filter the staff’s access and if not I’m sure * his * boss would be interested to see what he does online… :smiley:

I don’t like censorship and I don’t like policies that treat adult professionals like childern and will actively work to subvert any plans to do so. I guess that means that our work internet use policy is that we don’t care what sites you visit on the clock and that IT will actively assist in covering up any evidence that you were screwing off.

My $.02 here.

They recently tried to implement such policies at my workplace, but it blocked too many major site usages for people – i.e. the secretaries couldn’t book travel at hotels and such.

They then instituted a by-use website filter, where they took a list of all websites accessed, visited them, and then blocked them when they reviewed the content. That hasn’t caused any problems, except for such sites as the Fantasy Sports or pure entertainment sites like E-Online.

What I have found is that if you can install America Online on your computer, you can use their web-browser, and no sites get blocked. (I’m not purely accurate on the methods why, but I think AOL just uses the company internet portal to get out, but uses a different portal to get websites that isn’t filtered by the software) I don’t know if this is true on all systems, but you may want to check that if your favorite sites get blocked.

I’ve never worked for a company that intruded on how I use my computer.

My computer use Websense too… which is a total pain as I don’t have access to either the Dope or any of my Yahoo groups. Any hints on getting around it? Obviously I can’t phone the IT manager and say oh I can’t get on the Dope anymore… it’s hardly a research tool now is it???