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Monday, 18 January, 1999, 10:17 GMT
Schools for scanned mail
Mail-Gear seen as a schools solution for blocking undesirable e-mail
Mail-Gear seen as a schools solution for blocking undesirable e-mail
By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
Schools, worried about what their pupils might get up to online, now have a new means of controlling Internet activities.

The company whose filtering software automatically blocked schoolchildren's access to the Starr Report last year for its explicit sexual content has come up with a version for e-mail.

Mail-Gear was launched in the UK on the opening day of the BETT technology and education show by the Virginian company URLabs and its British partner ICL. It has been available in the US for six months and already has 750,000 users.

Bolton school pilots program

The first British school to try it out is the Hayward School in Bolton. Its Head, John Heaton, says Mail-Gear is the best package of its kind and feels its use could spread across the country.

"What it will do is work very much with staff and pupils in handling any inappropriate material that may come into the school or may be passed between staff and pupils, pupils to pupils, it will actually filter out and prevent e-mails being sent."

The product is not simple spam-filtering software but a full-blown mail server with levels of access carefully controlled and monitored.

Applications could include preventing pupils from cheating at online exams by e-mailing answers to one another, blocking the passing on of pornographic material and the sending of anonymous messages.

Dan Sydow of URLabs says it can also screen spam and stalkers' e-mail and prevent it reaching children. "It can be redirected internally to an administrator or in some cases we're actually looking at redirecting it to law enforcement agencies."

With the government planning to wire up all schools to the Internet, every pupil should soon have an e-mail address. Sydow says those trying to circumvent the school filtering system with browser-based accounts such as Hotmail could be blocked by the companion product I-Gear, which filters Web content.

One of the last refuges for now would be Chat areas, although URLabs says Chat-Gear is already in the pipeline.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
The Head's view: John Heaton of Hayward School, Bolton
Audio
Dan Sydow of URLabs on Mail-Gear
See also:

03 Sep 98 | Science/Nature
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