9 March 2000

Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 08:48:23 -0600
From: bennett@peacefire.org
To: peacefire-press@iain.com
Subject: Symantec threatens legal action over I-Gear report

Our report on I-Gear at:


has attracted the attention of Symantec's lawyers, who sent a fax to our ISP demanding that they remove our link to the I-Gear blocked site list on Symantec's server:


Our report provided a means to download the list of 470,000 sites blocked by I-Gear and decrypt the list with the "igdecode" codebreaker program.  We looked at the first 50 .edu URL's blocked under "pornography" that were still working, and found that 38 of them were mistakes:


The blocked pages included a 75 K page written entirely in Latin, a description of a milking machine system written in Spanish, and volumes 4 and 6 of "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" -- but NOT volumes 1, 2, 3, and 5 (even though these were linked from the same index page), since apparently all the "good parts" are in volumes 4 and 6.

(Before our report was published, we also sent mail to a few contacts asking them to download I-Gear's list, and act as "witnesses" in case I-Gear removed the list and claimed our report was fabricated.)  We also found that the I-Gear installer retrieves your "real name" and "company name" from Windows registration information on your computer, and secretly sends this data back to Symantec -- apparently in violation of the privacy policy on Symantec's Web site.

Symantec is demanding that we remove the links to their server, which we have not done.  However, Symantec did move the blocked-site list on their server, so the link from our page no longer works.  (More precisely, the link contains a serial number that has to be verified before the list can be downloaded, and Symantec de-activated that serial number to stop the link from working.)

We believe that the issue at stake is the right to criticize software by looking "under the hood", and to allow others to verify your findings.  By decrypting the list, in addition to the 76% error rate for .edu pages, we found that portions of the Web sites of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU.org), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF.org), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT.org), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC.org), and the Censorware Project (Censorware.org) were blocked by I-Gear in its "pornography" category.  On the other hand, none of the major pro-censorship groups (enough.org, frc.org, afa.net, fotf.org, etc.) had portions of their Web sites blocked.  Regardless of whether those anti-censorship sites got on the list by accident, the results suggest a bias in the blocked-site database -- which never would have been discovered without decrypting the list.

Peacefire has never altered any content on our Web site as a result of legal threats.  Our report on I-Gear will stay up, and we will post updates to our Web site regarding the legal situation.


For more information: email bennett@peacefire.org or call (425) 649 9024; I'll be in most of the day.  We also have a list of lawyers, lobbyists, and activists on the pro- and anti-side of the blocking software debate, at:


complete with email and phone numbers, if you're looking for statements from other people and organizations.

Also, if you would like not to receive further emails from Peacefire, please let me know.  Thanks!


bennett@peacefire.org     http://www.peacefire.org

(425) 649 9024