WhatBLOCK

Description

WhatBLOCK is an http-accessible application designed to test the internal networks of schools and offices across the country to assess the wide-scale use and abuse of internet content filtering.

Many students and office works across the country are often at the mercy of their I.T. departments and content filtering software when it comes to internet access. It can often be a difficult and time consuming process to get often legitimate work-related websites unblocked on an internal network and WhatBLOCK is an attempt to try and provide a level of scrutiny for this process. It is hoped that WhatBLOCK can ultimately make the lists of banned websites accessible and the people who create them accountable.

WhatBLOCK therefore needs to find out which websites are blocked on different networks. This is achieved by presenting the user within the local network with a page containing an iframe of a website which could potentially be blocked. The user is then prompted to declare the name of the School/Institution which they are in and whether or not they can see the page within the iframe; this data is then logged.

Ideas for taking this project forward

As it stands the service works for a number of websites but still has a few issues that I think would need to be overcome before it can truly become a useful data source.

The more pressing issues: * There's an issue that a number of websites will jump out of the iframe - these tend to be webmail services and other sensitive websites. Perhaps some kind of popup-window setup could get around the issue? * Getting it out to enough people to ensure reliability of data - as I said, we need large volumes of data to really find out whether a website it blocked or not at an institution. How many people really need to use it before we get good enough data? I don't know, but I presume it would need to be relatively wide-scale.

Easier issues to deal with: * Adding businesses, etc. to the search function to get a consistent identifier for them across their varying IP addresses. * Add a greater number of websites to the list - and more interesting ones to the list. * Make sure to warn people that their connections are probably being monitored and any excessive access to blocked sites may attract attention to themselves. * Get a domain and web hosting

Ideally, most of WhatBLOCK would need to be rewritten to make it securer and capable of taking a greater load.

See http://robbarry.blogspot.com/2010/08/whatblock-20.html

Estimated costs for taking this project forward

The cost of a domain and web hosting - this will vary depending on load.

About the data used for this project

This is more of a data collection project, however we did use some data to enable the 'search' facility - this is necessarily to create a unique identifier across multiple IP addresses a company/school may have.

We used a list of all state schools from the data.gov SPARQL service along with a corresponding list of local authority codes, which are then turned into Local Authority names. It's pretty good data.

Project URL:

http://dev.dfey.org/whatblock

Created at

Young Rewired State 2010

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