Nearly five years ago I came to this church as a part time IT person. In fact I soon became the only IT person. It was a perfect opportunity to get back into IT after spending two years as a stay-at-home dad.
The operation at the church was pretty standard and had very little that was different than any other small business IT department. . . The one big exception was that Covenant Eyes accountability software was running on every computer in the church. While I did not immediately see the full benefit of the product I did find it easy to administer. Except for the initial setup, there was really nothing for me to do with the church account. I had my person I was accountable to and those who I held accountable. All other users had someone else to keep them accountable.
The thing that was not obvious to me at the time was that because of the accountability model, I did not need to worry about content filtering. I still have not added a content filter at our church even though we have grown our network, IT staff, and user base quite a bit. It’s not that I do not see the need for a filter or that I don’t want one. It’s just that at this time it is not critical. Personally, I feel we have nearly too much to administer right now without having to stop several times a week and clear a website from the filter. For now Covenant Eyes accountability gives me the freedom to put the content filter on the back burner.
Currently, we offer around 100 user accounts with Covenant Eyes. All of our PCs on site, and even those few who work remotely, are required to have Covenant Eyes installed and running. When someone comes in as a new hire they must sign a statement acknowledging they will have CE on their computer, naming their accountability partner. I usually tell each new hire that they have the freedom to go anywhere they want online, but to keep in mind that a record exists of every location visited. To me it seems to stop trouble even before it starts. It changes the way people view where they go online. Anything you do in secret can lead down that wide path, so users must ask themselves, is this site a site that my accountability partner would view as safe and approve of?
Of course the system is not perfect so sometimes a perfectly fine site will show up as a mature or questionable site. There is a good mechanism to challenge a site rating and it works well. I think it works best if the partners are peers have a personal relationship. If one of the people I hold accountable has a site come up in their report that is questionable, I can usually tell by the website what their intent is. Usually a follow up email or conversation will clear up any confusion.
So far we have not had an issue with a staff member with an addiction problem coming to light. The reason for this is mostly because of the character of the people we hire, and partially because users know that they cannot hide where they go online.
As an IT person I have toyed around with Covenant Eyes, and there isn’t any way I have found to go around the system. Even if a user somehow made the attempt, it would be made clear quickly what they were trying to do. If nothing else, a red flag would be raised if their report came up empty.
Over time Covenant Eyes has made many improvements to their software including several management tools for us to monitor all of our users. While I do not enjoy “policing” users, with the accountability partners watching over each other, I really do not need to. Our system is not in place to “catch” users being bad, but rather as a way to keep each other held to high standards.
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This is a guest post from Barry Buchanan. Barry has been working in the computer industry for over 20 years for small and large corporations. Currently Barry works for a large church in North Texas, where he serves as an IT director. He is married to Cathy and has two daughters, Grace (seven) and Emily (10). Barry currently authors two blogs, one that focuses on Church IT and the other that is for his creative side.