Who watches the baby-sitter?

When you have children you worry about them. You want to protect them. So, that means you want security software that will try to child-proof the Internet. That's not easy. Some say it's an impossible job. But, still parents try their best with programs like Net Nanny and CyberPatrol. But, then there's EchoMetrix, which uses its Sentry and FamilySafe child protection programs to, and I quote their tag-line, "When kids talk, we listen."

And, you thought Big Brother was just a character in George Orwell's 1984. Welcome to 2009, when, according to an AP news report by Deborah Yow. "Software sold under the Sentry and FamilySafe brands can read private chats conducted through Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other services, and send back data on what kids are saying about such things as movies, music or video games. The information is then offered to businesses seeking ways to tailor their marketing messages to kids."

EchoMetrix makes no bones about it. They're in the business of data-mining your kid's IM (instant messaging) for advertisers. But, you're not going to know that when you install any of their kid-protection programs such as Sentry Total Family Protection, Sentry Basic, Sentry Lite and FamilySafe.

Whether you use the free Lite version or pay $20 to download the program and pay from $10 to approximately $48 a year for monitoring, you can be sure that your kids will be protected and that they most certainly will be monitored.

You can opt out of this program, according to the company, but only after you've installed it. EchoMetrix also claims that it's not really invading anyone's privacy since the company, and the businesses that it feeds kids' conversations to only know that it's BigKid1 at the home computer.

You're kidding me right? Give me a user name and an IP address, and, doing it by hand, never mind fancy data-mining tools, I can give you someone's real name and street address in minutes. This is not rocket-science.

You see it's already far too easy to track down what everyone does on the Internet, if you know what you're doing. But, that's no reason for a software company to deliberately enable any company to track what a kid is doing online under the false colors of protecting them. With protection like this, who needs enemies?

One of my favorite Latin tags is Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Or, in English, "Who watches the watchmen?" When it comes to your kid's Internet use, the answer is you. You need not just to actually check on what they're doing, but to check on what the software that supposed to 'protect' them is actually doing. As this sad case shows, you certainly can't trust these watchmen.

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