3 reasons to avoid a Chrome-centric school Web Filter

With Chromebooks accounting for nearly 60 percent of the devices sold to U.S. schools last year, many school web filters have tailored their approach specifically for the Chrome web browser.

That is to say, they’ve developed Chrome apps or extensions that take advantage of Google’s SafeSearch feature to deliver a safe and customizable online experience for Chromebook users, without investing as much time or effort into making their solution work effectively with other platforms.

We believe there are serious shortcomings in this strategy. In fact, here are three key reasons why we think taking a Chrome-centric approach to school Internet filtering is problematic.

Leveraging SafeSearch works well for Google websites, but it doesn’t give K-12 leaders granular control over non-Google domains (like Facebook or Twitter).

By integrating their filtering settings with SafeSearch, school web filters that focus on Chromebook can block inappropriate content within Google’s search engine and explicit videos on YouTube, without blocking the entire domain. However, SafeSearch only works on Google-owned domains.

This means K-12 leaders don’t have the same granular control over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites. If you use a Chrome-centric school web filter, you’d have to block these sites altogether or give students access to the entire site.

Using SafeSearch doesn’t allow for comprehensive reporting tied to specific users and subdomains.

Effectively managing mobile or digital learning requires administrators to know what students are doing online and which sites they’re trying to access. To remain CIPA compliant, enforce Acceptable Use Policies, and investigate possible criminal activity, K-12 leaders need comprehensive insight into students’ Internet use, with real-time dashboards and advanced reporting capabilities that can identify which users have requested which particular web pages.

Google SafeSearch doesn’t provide this comprehensive visibility and reporting, even for Google-owned domains. The only way to get it is by decrypting and inspecting Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) web traffic at very high speeds.

Perhaps most importantly, a Chrome-centric approach to school Internet filtering severely limits the options available to students.

What if a student forgets his Chromebook at home and wants to access the network from an iPhone instead? What if your school or district decides to go in a different direction when it’s time to refresh devices? How will you handle filtering for guests on your network? “Bring your own device” (BYOD) programs and mixed-device learning environments become problematic when schools choose a filtering solution that’s built around Chrome.

A full-featured, cross-platform Internet gateway solution solves all three of these challenges by decrypting, inspecting, and controlling web traffic from any device and web browser. As a result, students have the same Internet experience—and administrators have the same visibility and control—at all times. That’s a huge benefit.

ContentKeeper fits this description. Our leading school web filter offers the same top-notch functionality regardless of what device students are using or where they’re connecting from. ContentKeeper also integrates seamlessly with JAMF, FileWave, and other mobile device management (MDM) solutions, so administrators can push out certificates and manage Mac and iOS devices as easily as Chromebooks.

To learn more please visit: www.contentkeeper.com/industries/educationk-12

About the author: Mark Riley Co-Founded ContentKeeper Technologies Pty. Ltd. in 1997 and serves as its Chief Technology Officer. Mark has been named on a number of Internet Content Filtering Patents. He has accumulated more than 26 years experience in complex network design and software development with multinational organizations throughout Asia, Europe, North America and the UK. Mark's achievements have been recognized internationally by NetOps, Secure Computing Magazine (UK) and a range of media profiles.