Council email filter blocks 'erection' objections

  silverous 13:46 31 May 2006


click here

(Daily Mail article today)

I see what is perhaps a growing trend for people to 'blame' IT/Computers or hold IT/Computers responsible for things going wrong merely because they involve a computer/software. I see it at work quite a bit but this reminded me of it.

Two things spring to mind:

i) If something is that important generally I wouldn't send it via email or rely on an email preferring hand-delivered letter, fax or registered post instead (although really we should be able to rely on email)

ii) The council blaming the software and the fact that they didn't develop it. What nonsense..... a) They can almost certainly customise its behaviour (we have had similar issues with our mail filter here) and b) Why isn't someone monitoring the emails that are being held up for this reason.


  ventanas 14:06 31 May 2006

I agree with both your points. Filters are no good at all unless they are monitored. Every mail here that gets blocked is examnined before deletion. They all go to a dedicated machine on my desk and are checked at the end of each day.

Also, in a planning dept they should surely be aware that this word will nearly always be genuine and take it out of the filter.

And if I was that bothered about something I would hand deliver it.

  bosmere 14:27 31 May 2006

"If something is that important generally I wouldn't send it via email"

silverous I agree. I recently (a private individual) received the following via e-mail (details x'd out):-

To all Headteachers of xxxx Schools

Re: xxxx
Date of birth: xxxx

Should you be approached by the above named to work in your school, please contact ....

Not very nice for the individual concerned, whatever (s)he has been up to.

  Shortstop 15:00 31 May 2006

Reminds me of the problems I had with our Smart Web Filter when looking up a Winnie the Pooh screensaver for my daughter [it was agreed that I could do this in my lunch by my Manager] because of the meanings of the last word ......

Nearly went to a disciplinary until it was resolved when my boss returned from Europe ;o)



  DieSse 16:08 31 May 2006

I think the council has failed in it's statutary duty, and they should apply for and pay for a judicial review.

In fact if this software was actually in house, they have recieved the incomimg mail, and essentially chosen to ignore it, which is outrageous.

What they allowed to happen in their name was just as bad as tearing up incoming post and saying they didn't recieve it.

  ventanas 16:27 31 May 2006

I agree, perhaps an example should be made here, but is there not some culpability on the part of sender. Did he think to ask for a delivered and read receipt. This isn't mentioned. But, as you say outrageous. At least the press have picked it up, so something may happen.

  Jackcoms 16:33 31 May 2006

"At least the press have picked it up, so something may happen"

Yes, it's being discussed on this Forum.

And that's all that will happen ...

  ventanas 16:53 31 May 2006

I don't think so, we've had some discussion on this in the office, and the consensus is that its serious enough to warrant a judical review. There may be other indivuals whos objections have suffered the same fate, not just in this instance, but in others as well. It just needs someont to push it, as there may be implications for other local authorities, and far wider.

  wiz-king 21:47 31 May 2006

a plumber talking about his ball-cocks!

  silverous 22:37 31 May 2006 our mail filter.

Finance director sending spreadsheets full of the word 'Jap' for Japanese Yen.

Another director receiving emails with multiple occurences of 'screw' as in rusty screw.

The best has to be our american shareholder who had a "magna cum laude" grade in his degree definitely didn't like the middle word in that :)

The fact is, we found these items because we monitor the filter...shame on the council for blaming the software rather than their apparrently poor understanding of it and processes put in place around it.

  Sir Radfordin 22:50 31 May 2006

Part of the problem comes from the legal obligation for the "duty of care" an employer has - they have to take steps to prevent employees being offended, which could happen with an email that contains 'erection'.

I've worked in a place where the filter stopped any email with Essex in it because it contained the word 'sex'!!

Most of these filters to work using a points based system so you have a tolerance level. Mention erection once and you might be ok, mention it several times and it is likey to take the message over the tolerance level. Not ideal, but about the best a machine will ever be able to do.

As for monitoring the blocked email, nice idea but realistically not going to happen. Places I've worked before have blocked several thousand emails each hour. It would've taken more than one person to process them all.

I am surprised that the council concerned don't have a system in place to acknowledge objections when they are received - this seems to happen in other places. Rochdale's website says "Your letter will be placed on the relevant planning application file, which is open to public inspection" so Mr Kennedy could easily have checked his objection had been received. If it was that important I'd have made sure my objection had been noted.

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