We'd been testing SafeEyes 5.6, and were generally disappointed by its shortcomings and jumbled user interface. As luck would have it, SafeEyes released its 6.0 product, giving the product a second chance in our parental control software reviews. We looked forward to some positive changes. Here's what we found:
SafeEyes version 6.0 improves on the user interface, something we criticized last time. It's quite a bit easier on the eyes, and things make more sense. There are still some oddities: even with strict filtering "Adult" sites are not blocked by default, even though "Pornography" is. SafeEyes does define its categories though, so if you want to get into hair splitting, you can. SafeEyes offers four levels of filtering: Low, Medium, High, and Custom. We ended up using custom settings.
Also fixed are many of the crashing issues that marred our first experience with Safe Eyes. Sadly, this seems to have been the end of the makeover.
On the circumvention front, SafeEyes had mixed results. It blocked some proxies after we enabled filtering on https urls, but not all. It also could not block new proxy sites. Also, SafeEyes is not set up to block users from looking at a Google cache. While these cached pages don't always show images, they will show text and some links, something that's more of a problem for blocking information such as "how to make a bomb." It seemed to block many images in web-based email. We could not seem to get it to block email in general, even though it claims to be able to do this.
We were also unintentionally given the means to circumvent the software when we called tech support for a genuine login issue. The representative asked us only for our username and the answer to our security question and we were given our password. Perhaps they were convinced by our reviewer's deep voice. On the plus side, SafeEyes has pretty good customer support that's easily reachable by phone.
At first we were allowed to search for rather inappropriate terms on Google, though the pornographic site blockers blocked us from the most pornographic. We actually had to enable the Keyword/Phrase Dictionaries for Block Profanity and Block Sexually Suggestive Words.
The filters themselves run a bit conservative, and are only somewhat smart about what they block. It does run into problems with multi-word queries. "Gay" is banned completely whether it's in "gay rights", Nietzsche's classic philosophy text "The Gay Science" or the WWII bomber "The Enola Gay." Sex is also forbidden, no matter what words it's paired up with. SafeEyes therefore found something naughty about "sex linked differences," a common biological term.
SafeEyes can record the activity on most of the popular IM programs, but it does not send realtime warnings to administrators when objectionable content is sent or received via IM. Also, while it can be set up to send out weekly or daily activity reports, you can't see them on demand. And while SafeEyes does send nearly instant reports when a user tries to view "banned" sites, the false positive rate is high. We were notifed of visits to Google, Netscape, Yahoo, and any site that used ratings services from Quantserve. While you can allow these sites via the control panel, parents will quickly grow tired of adding such innocuous sites to the exceptions list.
SafeEyes is $49.95, a steep price given its shortcomings. While we don't believe any program will ever be able to block everything, the mix of filtering failures, poor security with regards to customer service, and the program-blocking failures make it difficult to recommend.
System Requirements: Windows 7 (32- & 64-bit), Windows XP (32-bit), Windows Vista (32- & 64-bit); Macintosh version available (but not reviewed)
|Cost:||$39.95/yr for 3 PCs |
(after 20% off w/coupon code safeeyes20off)
|Programs Monitored:||IE, Firefox;|
Instant messenger (Yahoo!, AIM, MSN, ICQ)
|Special Features:||Multiple levels of blocking severity; Some ability to block program access|
|Social Network Monitoring:||Monitors social networks for profanity and suggestive terms; can ban social network sites|
|Reports/Alerts:||Daily or weekly reports; instant email reports for violations; no on-demand reporting|
|Kid-Proof Rating:||OK: blocks some proxies that allow kids to bypass controls|
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