Filtering logs open in Utah

UTAH — The Utah Records Committee, which helps resolve disputes of open records under the Utah Freedom of Information Act, granted the release of log files June 29 containing information about what sites had been blocked by Internet filtering software.Michael Sims, who requested the files, said the Utah Education Network, which keeps the log files used in 40 school districts statewide, did not appeal the decision but deleted all the log files he requested.Steve Hess, executive director of the Utah Education Network, would not respond to phone messages left after the log files were deleted. In an earlier interview, however, Hess said there were many reasons not to release the information.”I1m not convinced that we own the data,” Hess said. “Now the company that does the filtering has some concerns that people could figure out their program. “Sims said he had planned to analyze the information to see what types of sites are restricted by SmartFilter, the software program the schools used.”Students have First Amendment rights as well as adults,” Sims said. “In a school setting, these can be somewhat constrained … but the state should not be banning material which no reasonable person would consider harmful. Literally anything could be on the software ban list, and Utah would not know it, since even the school system doesn1t know what the software really bans.”Sims became interested in the issue after reading a news article about filtering software in Utah that mentioned log files were kept by the Utah Educational Network for the school districts.According to Peacefire, an organization opposing Internet censorship, SmartFilter restricts access to sites with information about drug abuse assistance, AIDS prevention and safe sex practices.In his work with the Censorware Project, an organization dedicated to exposing software that censors Web access, Sims sent a written request in April to the state education network for the logs.He was denied access in May and appealed to the records committee, which helps resolve disputes of open records under the Utah Freedom of Information Act. Sims plans to pursue the matter.