43 thoughts on “FAQ Friday: "Does ‘Porn Mode’ get around Covenant Eyes?"

  1. Unfortunately, the folks who developed Covenant Eyes software have obstinately resisted developing the software simultaneously for the Linux platform (yet tout it as the best thing since sliced bread), and as such, if you are tempted to view porn, why not just install your favorite flavor of Linux, an appropriate browser, and waalaa… you’re up and running.

    I am a paying customer, and EXPECT that I can cover ALL of my computers with the Covenant Eyes service that I PAY FOR. Great! So you cover SOME mobile devices out there… oh yeah… keep the porn off of the small screens, where you can’t see anything anyway… ahh… yep… smart thinking. To heck with the thousands of us using Linux, on BIG screens! Besides, many of us don’t HAVE mobile devices running Windoze Mobile. So who are your customers, anyway? Big Businesses that provide mobile devices running Windoze Mobile. Ahh… I see… The family guy trying to keep his family safe has been left out in the cold.

    Covenant Eyes WILL NOT give up the source code (the code I assume is written in C++ or similar, for open-source compilation on other platforms), nor will they hire appropriate programmers to address the Linux Issue . If they were TRULY serious about those of us who are plagued with such temptations, they would not have blown me off when I asked them about this, by essentially saying that they “had no plans to develop for linux”, or “we’re thinking about it, but we don’t have enough people to handle it”, or some kind of Barbara Streisand like that.

    Needless to say, they have left a gaping hole in what they are trying to accomplish, and they are unabashedly apathetic about the whole issue, (notice the Linux platform even MENTIONED on their website?… try doing a search in the blog for “Linux”, and see if you don’t get a 404, Not Found message). I haven’t even seen it addressed in this blog, under the category, “Criticisms and FAQ for Covenant Eyes”. They are trying to bury this issue!

    THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. I WILL NOT be renewing my membership, since it doesn’t give me anything but a bunch of questions from my wife, who is my accountability partner, and DOESN’T help me when I’m on my laptop (running Ubuntu 8.10 Linux, by necessity), which is most of the time I’m away from home (point of maximum temptation).

    Covenant Eyes people… YOUR TIME IS UP.

    You will notice that the link I posted as being my website (click on my name) is my blog site. If you don’t respond to me directly, AND in the affirmative, I am going to tell the whole Christian AND business world about my experiences with your software and your company the best way I know how, which is by blogging about my experience here, and spreading my words across the web… and don’t for a second think I won’t or can’t do it… and I will be factual, frank, honest and non-slanderous about it… so don’t think you will stop me by suing me… won’t work! Many of my readers are Christian, and conservative. They connect with other Christians out there. You want some bad press? You’re gonna get it handed to you in a way you’re not going to like.

    You had better think about this, and very, very soon.

    This text is my Copy Right, since I wrote it, and it is ready to be broadcast around the net on my own blog (and therefore many many others, as well) if I don’t get a favorable response within a reasonable period of time. Another action on your part that will trigger my posting this all over the web would be if you continue to be dis-honest, and don’t publish this reply, in it’s entirety, or if I receive any sort of contact from any attorney acting on your behalf.

    • Hello Jeff, I received your comment and email. I want to take some time to read over your email and follow up with a fitting response, not just from myself, but from my co-workers here at Covenant Eyes. Your complaint is certainly noted and I will be getting back to you promptly. Thanks for desiring to help people maintain purity online.

    • Jeff,

      I’ve finished speaking with both our president and our VP of Technology about your complaint. I also notice that you had some email correspondence with our president back in November about this issue.

      Thank you for voicing your complaint. I certainly want to take the time to respond as clearly as possible so there is no misunderstanding. We recognize the growing popularity of Linux, and this is a question we encounter from time to time.

      First, thank you for your membership with us, but as far as I know we do not advertise the monitoring of every operating system, but only those that run on Windows or Mac platforms. Were you aware of this before you signed up for Covenant Eyes? If you feel our website or literature is not clear about this, please let us know where we have failed to communicate this clearly so we can clear it up immediately.

      Years ago, back when we did not have a filter software product, we were more than eager to refer our members to filters that we thought were the best on the market. We did this because we care very much about the plague of pornography online, regardless of how many members we have or who chooses another product over our own. I will refer you very happily to Accountability Pal if you are looking for a Linux accountability program. We have not fully tested the value, accuracy, or stability of this program, but as of now this is what the Linux community is turning to. I sincerely hope this will put a plug in this problem for you. I’m sure, if the demand for CE in the Linux community is as ubiquitous as you say it is, this or a similar program is being utilized and improved by Linux users.

      To answer your question, simply releasing our code for open source would not be the only thing required to build a version of CE for Linux. We also write all of our own interfaces among our Member Center, Accountability Reports, web scoring system, and the communication between our servers and Windows LSP or Mac’s kernel. To allow others access to this information would pose a huge security risk for us and our members. If you have any suggestions for how we might work around these concerns, please let us know.

      As our president communicated to you in a previous email, we do not want to do anything half-baked, and it would take a sizable amount of resources to develop a version of CE for Linux that would be as uncircumventable by the average Linux user. Right now our main priority is improving the current programs we have for the two most popular operating systems (Windows and Mac). We get many, many more requests from family men such as yourself for other programs (i.e. a Mac filter, CE for the iPhone, Windows Mobile, the Blackberry, or the Android Phone) than we do from those who fear using Linux as a circumvention method. Try as we might to “be all things to all platforms,” this is not within our means right now. I respectfully ask you to not demand something of us that isn’t feasible at this time.

      I would like to reiterate we are very much concerned about the accessibility of pornography online. As someone who has been addicted to pornography in the past I can all too easily sympathize. However, to judge our seriousness about this issue based on our lack of a product for the Linux platform is unfair. It would not be right of me to assume that other software providers are apathetic about pornography because they lacked a certain product but had others. I’m sure you would agree, it is impossible to judge the hearts of the people involved without knowing them. Plus, with the rising use of online mobile devices, and the creation of many porn sites specifically geared for these devices, we see it as a high priority to devote more of our resources to the creation of CE for these devices.

      Lastly, we would not be at all interested in suing you if you inform the Internet community about what we have said concerning this issue. As you can see I quickly published your comment on this blog. We are very interested in hearing the complaints and problems of our members. In fact, you are probably right about it being high time for us to add a post about Linux on this blog. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

      On a personal note, I can see that this is incredibly frustrating to you, and I would love to be able to tell you that we are working on this project. I would probably be frustrated as well. This is why I highly encourage you to try Accountability Pal and let us know how you feel about it. We will be more than happy to recommend such a program to Linux users if it is of a high caliber. And again, if you have any suggestions about how we can safely contribute to an open source project that can benefit Linux users, please let us know. We would be eager to hear your thoughts.

  2. I must side with Jeff. I think you guys are doing a great job with this type of software, but there are a few products that you guys have neglected to develop. I don’t completely agree with Jeff on developing for linux, but one thing that you guys should make is an internet-gateway-filter. Run CE on one computer, and it covers all computers on the network. Bypassing this would require one to have access to the internet gateway machine. This should at least be an option for CE users.

    At the very least, add CE support for windows internet connection sharing. This is something I’ve been wanting to see released for quite some time now.

  3. [This was written several months later, after having done a search for the keywords “accountability software linux” while contemplating a system upgrade]

    First, I must apologize for my scathing letter to the wonderful folks at CE, as I am convinced they REALLY DO care about this issue, and I realize that they can only do just so many things at once and still remain effective in the battle.

    Indeed, I was exceedingly frustrated by the lack of DISCUSSION of the Linux issue, let alone any solutions, and I let my own personal experience (my wife thanking me for putting CE on all household computers; but that it really meant nothing to her since the Ubuntu laptop which I use while on trips couldn’t run it) add to my fire.

    I’m truly sorry for the way I treated you guys… I know you have your heart in the right place. I beg your forgiveness, Luke, since you had to deal with my flames directly. I WAS unfair to you guys and deeply regret my language and threats to publish the content of the letter I wrote in my blog, the bulk of which has now been published here for the search engines to use therefore anyway…. Well, it just brings to mind that once you say something, you can’t “un-say” it. I only hope that maybe it has driven us to start discussing what CAN be done. [I have not yet read everything in the discussion, and so I am still looking for a solution.]

    If you will still have me, I would be happy to attempt to contribute constructively in the “Covenant Eyes for Linux” post in the future. Somewhere there is an answer; Linux will not be the only challenge we face in this battle. Technology marches on….

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Jeff Bayer

  4. @Jeff,

    there is a temporary fix for the problem. i also use ubuntu, but i run it through a virtual machine. i don’t know if you heard of this. my main operating system is Windows Vista. i installed a virtual machine (VM) on top of it, VirtualBox. VM allows you to install multiple operating systems on the same machine and run them at the same time. since my ubuntu is installed on top of the VM which is installed on top of windows all my requests go through windows, which means that inappropriate addresses will be blocked. i tried and it works. so my advice is, at least for now, install windows as your main OS, then CE, then Virtual Machine (Virtual Box or something else, your choice) then Ubuntu through the Virtual Machine. it works for me. below is very crude diagram how Ubuntu will access internet through a Virtual Machine

    Ubuntu –> Virtual Machine –> Windows –> Internet

    ps. i wasn’t able to figure out from the posts if there is going to be version for Linux, at least for Ubuntu, seems like it is the most popular out there. i really don’t need the source code for it, a compiled version would suffice. i’d pay any money for it.

    • Jerry,

      I know that this answer is WAYYY late. I just stumbled upon this thread. So, anyone out there can know… VMs are just a way of running multiple OSs. All of the current flavors of VMs can use NAT mode, which is the mode you described. It uses your current connection as a gateway to the outside world. BUT… all of them also offer “Bridged Mode”. This is where the base OS creates a virtual adapter for the network that is completely unique to the VM. This mode will bypass CE and allow unrestricted connection to the outside world. This is by design. Each system requires its own accountability and setup just like each person. Thus, a semi-familiar Windows/Linux/Mac user can get around these accountability apps. This is the heartache for those with the technological gift.
      Chuck Swindoll stated that we have to make this a conviction… a strong belief that is supported and proven by truth. Then we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross.
      I’m still working on all of this, but together as the true church (not a building or religious organization, but the body of Christ) we can overcome. CE is just one of the checks and balances that we must unfortunately set for ourselves. Thanks to everyone who works towards this endeavor.

  5. Re: Jerry

    This is not a safe idea. It may work for VirtualBox by default… but for other settings/virtualization software this doesnt “keep you accountable”. I know this from experience. DONT do this.
    Moderator please remove these posts.

  6. I am not sure about what Linux is or any of the other things you mentioned I don’t understand much about how all these things work but what i do know is this. I live in a foreign country I need to have a VPN. I bought covenant eyes to help me stay pure and have accountability online. I recently changed VPN providers then realized I can go on my VPN and completely bypass CE! Yikes! Basically with this new knowledge having been unfortunately brought to light… I am not sure what to do. I downloaded a free program with parental controls “K9″ but its the same problem the VPN will bypass it straight away. What can I do??

    • @Michael – Thanks for your question. We’d love to help you out specifically, so give us a call at 1.989.720.8000 and ask to be transferred to our customer support lead. Let him know you commented on our blog. We’ll see what we can do to help you with your VPN.

  7. This is another plug for an Ubuntu/Debian/Mint release. I’m moving into a Christian house that requires residents to install CE on their computers, but I’ve got some flavor of Linux on all my machines. I do professional website development, writing PHP and I’d rather not loose my production servers in favor of housing arrangements.

  8. Luke Gilkerson’s response above was phenomenal.

    He handled a difficult situation with a difficult, frustrated person exceptionally well! The responses he gave were the highest quality customer service I’ve ever seen, and to be representing a Christian organization makes it that much better. He should be commended, and given a raise. I have a deeper respect for Covenant eyes after somehow stumbling on this and reading it.

  9. Also, I had a legitimate question.

    I began using a free vpn, hotspot shield, using the latest version of windows 7 / opera – primarily for use at starbucks to keep things secure. I was just browsing around, trying to figure out how/if CE would interfere with the security of VPN but it seem to be working fine. Just wanted to make sure though.

    Thanks!

    • @J – Thanks for your comments!

      As for your VPN question: It all depends on the security the VPN software uses. If you are seeing activity on your accountability reports, then everything should be working properly. If you see any issues, then we may need to troubleshoot with you. You can always call us up if you see any red flags. 877.479.1119.

      Thanks, J!

  10. I stumbled on this while searching for information on using Covenant Eyes with a VPN such as Hotspot Shield. My employer has personnel in politically- and religiously-sensitive regions of the world and these workers need to exercise care in how openly they communicate with colleagues. These personnel generally want some form of accountability (to other colleagues or trusted individuals) but also want to shield at least some of their online activities from prying eyes (primarily intrusive governments that may not have their best interests in mind).

    Anyway, that said, wow! I’m appalled at the tenor of some of the comments here. Covenant Eyes is a good tool, but it’s not your Mom, Dad, spouse, pastor or priest and it can’t change your heart. CE (the company) is doing an excellent job and will continue to improve and offer additional features and may support additional platforms. If you struggle with the desire to look at bad things, and haven’t already done so, you need to recognize your need and ask Jesus to save you (you can’t change your heart–your core being–through sheer will power). If you are a believer and still struggle with this issue, you need to find an accountability partner that you can call to help you overcome these temptations, and perhaps more importantly, pray, fast and memorize scripture. There is no “magic formula”, but all of these can help change your sinful desires/appetites. Ultimately, you are responsible for your viewing choices and you can’t blame your sin on a product/tool for not being available on your preferred operating system or not being 100% uncircumventable. Your choices today affect who you will be tomorrow and where you will be 1, 5, 10 and more years from now. Surf responsibly!

    • @Ron – Thanks for your comment. It is true: Covenant Eyes is only a tool to help facilitate redemptive relationships. If you don’t take responsibility for fostering those relationships (with Jesus and His body), then tools like Covenant Eyes will be less helpful to you.

    • True enough, but having accountability makes it easier to not fall into sin. I’m not looking for a filter (this is a bonus), I’m looking for accountability. The idea is, you’re not alone even when you think you are then, not that God can’t see everything though. It’s like having a second person in the room.

      Secondly, many of us want to stop, but an addiction is an addiction. Whether or not it’s smoking, lying, gambling, drinking, or porn, they are still there and you need help to overcome them. This is one step on the way there, and it would be nice if it was available for a fairly popular, open source OS.

  11. Thanks first for the fine software. It has helped me maintain victory over pornography, and I am very grateful.

    We have a Christian Outreach Center going up in our community. Something which profit from an internet-gateway-filtering appliance. Are you working on something like this, or could you give me a recommendation of another product that does a good job of filtering and accountability for a church business?

    Thanks,

    Craig

  12. Just open source it please. I want to see a port of this to Linux so I can use it again. I’m so tired of falling back into the traps. :'(

  13. I’ve stumbled across this thread, read all the comments, and I’m slightly amused by the fact that the consistent issues are Linux and VPNs. These are the biggest gaps in CE’s shield, and both are easily stumbled upon by determined individuals.

    I was initially impressed by just how effective CE was on my Windows machine, but when I learned of those weaknesses, all the effectiveness was gone. As a computer science student, I may have had knowledge that others would not, but the fact remains that there are certainly others like me who are one accidental discovery away from losing a weapon in the battle for purity.

    It would be nice if, in the future, CE could be compatible with Linux and more effective with VPNs. That said, I know these are difficult areas to cover, and a lack of solutions is understandable.

    • JB, I agree with you. I’ve been a CE user for a while now, and I remember having the same frustrating sentiments Jeff had earlier in the thread. I was even angry at CE for apparently “ignoring” the Linux people. I’ve finally resigned to the fact that even if there was CE for Linux, those of us who use it can easily circumvent it because of the tech knowledge we have. However, even though I have given up on waiting for a Linux CE client, I’ve not stopped thinking about and trying other things. Here’s a list of things I’ve been doing and ideas I’ve been kicking around. I hope the community gives feedback.

      – Use OpenDNS site filtering on your broadband router, lock it down by rerouting all other DNS packets to OpenDNS filtering servers, and give sole access to the router to your accountability partner. This will at least cover the machines at home. It won’t cover usage of proxies like Tor or VPN’s.

      – Currently I’m working on getting OpenDNS and possibly CE working on my iPhone by utilizing VPN. The idea is this: Set up VPN server to a “safe network” filtered by OpenDNS and possibly CE. Setup iPhone to route all traffic, Wifi and 3G, to the VPN. Have your accountability partner lock down the iPhone VPN settings with iPhone configuration utility. (Yes it can be done!) So far I’ve tested iPhone VPN to the OpenDNS protected network successfully. Both Wifi and 3G is locked down. The next thing to test is to set up a VPN server that also has CE installed and see if it will watch all the traffic.

      – As for Linux users on the road? *sigh* I haven’t figured anything out yet. I used to be in this camp, but I’ve switched to using a Mac. I’m still thinking of ideas though.

      – As for CE dealing with proxies and VPN’s? What CE could do is start including bandwidth usage in the reports. If there is a huge amount of traffic that is unaccounted for, it would be an indication that proxies or VPN’s are being used, and then at the next accountability meeting, there would be some explaining to be done.

    • Rillion, I know this is a tremendously old post, but I’m curious, have you had success in getting a VPN connection set up and locked down on an iPhone? If the VPN server is running CE, does it also monitor traffic routed to client computers?

      I’d love to hear how you got everything set up. Thanks for your comment.

  14. The Tor Browser beats Covenant Eyes. Does anyone have a solution for this? The Tor Browser installs and starts in seconds, so it’s not simply a matter of uninstalling it.

  15. @ Rillion, did you manage to successfully use CE via VPN on your iPhone? I would be interested in knowing how to accomplish this as it would enable me to monitor all Internet usage on my iPhone, not just usage via the CE app. Thanks in advance!

  16. This is another vote for a Linux version of CE. I’d like to start running Linux on a home computer, but won’t until there is a good product available.

    Thanks for what you guys do.

    Chris

  17. Hi
    I am an accountability partner to my husband. and I found the incognito mode on google and decided to check out if in fact it will still show on covenant eyes. Unfortunately what I searched does not get picked up on coventant eyes reports.

    Please advise

    • Hi Michelle. I think I know about the issue you’re talking about. We’ve had a few questions come in about it. We need a little more information about your system to help you out. If you give us a call, we can troubleshoot with you. 877.479.1119.

  18. Well…I have an idea for iPhone and Android, which would really make me happy. For iPhone, it would no doubt require a jailbreak due to Apple’s limitations, but with a jailbreak it would be possible to write a CE that would pick up ALL internet usage, not just that used in Safari. My idea is the same for Android, which may or may not require the device to be rooted, but even if it did most devices can be rooted. This would make Mobile CE much, much more effective for those with the tech knowledge to install them.

    • I assume you’re using an Android device, correct? Unfortunately, there is no App Lock software (that we’ve discovered yet) that will enable you to lock out just that feature of a web browser. We are working on a patch for the problem right now.

  19. I have Hide my Assembly encryption on my Android and Windows laptop. Does CE work on VPN please or does it just show as HTTPS?

    • Whether we’ll work with a VPN service varies. Typically, VPNs for hiding your activity won’t work with Covenant Eyes, but we will flag all anonymizer websites as Highly Mature. We have never tested this one specifically, but we have had members that tell us it works.

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