Why Securly’s Response Showcases Its Limitations

Lightspeed Systems has provided content filtering software to K-12 schools for 20 years. In this time, we have not disparaged other solutions.

Recently, we became aware of fundamental issues with the way Securly and GoGuardian Admin block and allow content, particularly pornography. We decided we must make this information known to school districts who rely on them for CIPA compliance and student safety.

Our Original Tests of Securly & GoGuardian
We took several thousand randomly sampled pornographic websites from our database, verified manually that they were in fact pornographic, and used them to test Securly and GoGuardian Admin.

A few days after our initial tests, we retested the filters against the same porn websites. There was no change in the results.

There are two types of errors in content filtering: under-block errors and over-block errors. Categorization software should be tunable so that the under-block error is virtually zero and the over-block error is small. Due to the risks of exposing children to pornography, a small rate of over-blocking is preferable to under-blocking.

Securly’s product blocked only 30% of the porn websites for a 70% under-block error rate.

GoGuardian blocked only 40% of the same porn websites for a 60% under-block error rate.

Lightspeed Systems under-block error rate is near zero and our over-block error rate is 0.0067%.

Securly’s Response
On August 10, 2018, Securly posted a response to our test results on its blog. Securly’s explanation of its technology and process actually exposes the limitations of the company and its products.

1. By Securly’s admission, using a hand-picked list of websites, its software achieved a 16% under-block error rate. (This should be 0%.)

2. Securly reviewed only 65,000 websites in the past week. In the same time period, Lightspeed reviewed 9,371,000 websites, or 144 times more.

3. Securly claims that websites tested by Lightspeed, and unknown to Securly at the time, would have been correctly categorized by PageScan software within two seconds. This didn’t happen in any of our tests.

4. Securly doesn’t provide any information on how it categorizes websites. Lightspeed can prove every categorization decision it makes, and publishes this information at archive.lightspeedsystems.com.

5. Securly shows that it classified 724 domains in the past week. Lightspeed categorizes more domains than this every minute — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

6. Securly admits it doesn’t run its PageScan software for all Securly customers.

7. Securly claims that foreign-language websites, and any sites other than those that rank highly in Google results, are unfair to test. About half the web’s content is not in English.

8. Securly says that when it can’t figure out how to categorize a website, it calls a third-party API to categorize the site — but also claims this “best-in-class” system is too expensive to use all the time.

It takes high-quality categorization software; advanced technology; finely honed and tested processes; millions of web crawlers; and a solid, distributed cloud database to deliver the best quality content filtering solutions to K-12 schools. It’s neither easy nor inexpensive.

Lightspeed Systems has provided these solutions to schools for two decades and has built the advanced technology and processes schools need to ensure effective blocking of pornography, and assurance of student safety and CIPA compliance — every time, on every type of site, for every customer.

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