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Thanet District Council's Censorship Department
>>> <MichaelChild@aol.com> 20/01/2009 16:42:14 >>>
Hi Richard I sent TDCs contaminated land officer pictures of a sewage leak
in Ramsgate today, the pictures were embedded in the email and he didnít
receive them. I can only assume that the TDC mail sever filters out embedded
images, as this is the normal way people send images by email this doesnít sound
like a good idea.
Can you please confirm the this is in fact what happens, I have sent two
different pictures of Minster with this email one embedded and one attached,
could you pleas tell me what you receive if anything?

I am sure you will agree with me that this is a serious issue.

Best regards Michael


Subject:
Re: Emails to council addresses
Date:
20/01/2009 18:09:09 GMT Standard Time
From:
Richard.Samuel@thanet.gov.uk
Reply To:
To:
MichaelChild@aol.com
CC:
BCC:
Sent on:
Sent from the Internet (Details)

I'm sure this is a straightforward matter.My IT people will reply to you.


Subject: Re: Emails to council addresses Date: 21/01/2009 10:09:38 GMT Standard Time From: Michael Child
Reply To:
To:
Richard.Samuel@thanet.gov.uk

From what you say and that it hasn't come back in your reply, I am assuming you didn't get the embedded image either. could you please confirm what you actually did receive i.e. 2 different pictures of Minster 1 Picture of Minster or no pictures?
Best regards Michael

Subject:
Re: Emails to council addresses
Date:
21/01/2009 10:12:42 GMT Standard Time
From:
Richard.Samuel@thanet.gov.uk
Reply To:
To:
MichaelChild@aol.com
CC:
BCC:
Sent on:
Sent from the Internet (Details)
I have n't opened your email from the office as I'm working off a blackberry. Your email has been passed to the IT team to reply to.

Subject:
Re: Emails to council addresses
Date:
21/01/2009 10:26:18 GMT Standard Time
From:
Michael Child
Reply To:
To:
Richard.Samuel@thanet.gov.uk

Sorry Richard didn't realise as your Blackberry emails used to say they were in them, I look forward to what they have to say.
Best regards Michael

Subject: IT Date: 23/01/2009 15:26:02 GMT Standard Time From: Michael Child
Reply To:
To:
richard.samuel@thanet.gov.uk

Hi Richard I still haven't heard anything from your IT people about the vanishing embedded images I do know now that some get through to council addresses and some don't, a ghost in the machine?
It would seem that Malcolm is definitely going ahead with a mayoral petition, once he gets his teeth into something he tends not to let go so it should be interesting times ahead.
Best regards Michael

In a message dated 23/01/2009 18:25:36 GMT Standard Time, Andy.Evans@thanet.gov.uk writes:
I've been investigating the missing email images and I can see both the attached and embedded images of Minster.

You are correct that our TDC mail sever does filter out some embedded emails, however it only filters those deemed as inappropriate (we set strict rules for this). Inappropriate types of emails are totally blocked and neither the image or mail content are forwarded onto the recipient, they are quarantined for review by IT Services.

Your embedded image version of the 'sewage' email made it through to the officer and has been forwarded to me for viewing. After discussing with the officer I can confirm that once viewed in HTML we can both clearly see the embedded image as expected.

To explain further, at TDC the default way for viewing emails is in text format, we must actively select 'view in HTML' to see embedded images. This is good practice just incase anything malicious is embedded and still manages to get through.

Thank you for high-lighting this issue, I hope this alleviates your concerns.

Regards


Andy Evans
Assistant ICT Manager
Thanet District Council
www.thanet.gov.uk
Direct Dial:01843 577766
Fax:01843 577783

Subject: Re: Emails to council addresses Date: 26/01/2009 16:03:59 GMT Standard Time From: Michael Child
Reply To:
To:
Andy.Evans@thanet.gov.uk
CC:
richard.samuel@thanet.gov.uk, leader@thanet.gov.uk

Hi Andy, a very helpful reply I shall certainly give it some consideration, it raises some interesting points about confidentiality, for instance if I emailed one of my councillors as a constituent I would expect this to be a confidential exchange between me and my political representative.
Of course we all use filters to remove spam and viruses, however this doesnít stop us from being able to view our spam folders to make sure nothing we wanted had been inadvertently spammed.
It also raises other interesting ethical questions, like would ordinary post sent to council officers or councillors at the council officers, be opened and checked by a censor, prior to being passed on.
One can fully understand why so many councillors retain their private email addresses for official council use.
I am also assuming that the council officer or councillor who had had text or an image removed from an email wouldnít know that it had been removed, this certainly explains some of the strange replies I have had in the past.
I would also assume from what happened that it wouldnít say on a text format email that there were invisible images.
I will certainly review what I send in emails to TDC addresses, remember to put in the text that there is an image attached or embedded.
Could you kindly tell me if outgoing emails from TDC addresses are censored, that would also explain some of the more surreal replies I have received in the past?
Could you also tell me if those people doing the censorship have any special qualifications or training?
I will of course publicise this issue as widely as possible so that members local community make the necessary modifications and constraints when using the TDC email server.
Image embedded in this email.
Best regards Michael


In a message dated 27/01/2009 10:19:05 GMT Standard Time, Andy.Evans@thanet.gov.uk writes:
Apologies for the misunderstanding, I can assure you that in no way are any emails censored whatsoever.

When quarantined emails are reviewed, the technician can only view the sender, recipient and reason for the quarantine, based upon these details the email will be actioned.

A business decision has been made not to forward spam emails onto the users due to the volumes that the council receive on a daily basis.

I trust this clarifies.



Andy Evans
Assistant ICT Manager
Thanet District Council
www.thanet.gov.uk
Direct Dial:01843 577766
Fax:01843 577783


Subject: "Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" Date: 27/01/2009 11:08:32 GMT Standard Time
From: Michael Child
Reply To:
To:
Andy.Evans@thanet.gov.uk

Hi Andy I donít quite follow what you are saying here as presumably suspected spam where the senders address is not known to you and there is either no subject or the technician doesnít understand the subject line, must have to be opened and read to ascertain whether they are spam or not.
I canít see how you could set up a mail server so technicians could open suspected spam but were unable to open quarantined emails, nor do I see how it would be possible to check images without opening them, obviously images could be of confidential documents.
Could you kindly expand on what you say, so I can understand what happens and how it is technically possible for it to happen.
Nor can I see how I would be possible to action a quarantined without actually opening it.
You have to appreciate that I have had problems in the past with officers not passing on my emails to councillors or passing them on so late that they are no longer relevant. These problems date back to 2004 see http://www.thanetonline.com/Pleasurama/ the most recent being the 22nd of this month when I received an email from the leader that had been delayed by several weeks.
I also have been given excuses that technical limitation prevent the council from making information available on the web, that would increase transparency, the most recent being that the council is unable to webcast council meetings that it has recorded and are in some sense available on dvd.
After all in the simplest sense they could be published on the councils website as downloadable files.
Best regards Michael

In a message dated 27/01/2009 12:26:56 GMT Standard Time, Andy.Evans@thanet.gov.uk writes:
Sorry I cannot comment on your previous experiences, however I need to be clear about spam and quarantined emails as they are treated significantly different.

For spam mail, we use supplier provided software which determines whether the email is spam and protects the user from receiving it. If the user is expecting an email we can report on the spam filter to check the status and inform the user then release if necessary. Also if the user receives spam, they can inform us so we can prevent that type of spam from coming through again. The reason this is computer automated is due to the huge volume of spam.

Quarantined mail, again we use supplier provided software to determine whether the mail is quarantined. The reason code for the quarantine is reviewed as an example anything categorised as 'Virus' is deleted. In all cases the users are emailed and informed of their quarantined email and can make the decision whether they receive it.

Going back to the sewage emails, they were not spam and were not quarantined, the technician received the emails and at first was unable to view the images correctly.



Andy Evans
Assistant ICT Manager
Thanet District Council
www.thanet.gov.uk
Direct Dial:01843 577766
Fax:01843 577783


Subject:
Re: "Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"
Date:
27/01/2009 14:51:57 GMT Standard Time
From:
Michael Child
Reply To:
To:
Andy.Evans@thanet.gov.uk

Sorry to be a pain Andy but I donít quite understand the way either is treated.
Firstly spam I have 3 websites trade online via Amazon, ebay, abe and my own site, so I am familiar with the problem of spam, I find that although over 90% of spam is identifiable by its title I have to physically open the rest, I would lose sales otherwise as about 2% prove not to be spam.
Are you saying that if someone sends a genuine email that is inadvertently treated as spam they get no bounce back message and no one checks these emails?
Secondly quarantined mail, obviously emails and attachments that contain viruses have to be quarantined and I fully understand this.
What I am unable to understand is what email that isnít spam and doesnít contain a virus could be detected by software, could you kindly tell me what the other reason codes mean?
I only sighted my previous experiences to make it clear to you that I have reason to be dubious about some of the things that TDC do and especially when this relates to ICT.
Obviously I know several councillors and council officers and have heard rumours of a somewhat heavy-handed approach by TDCs IT department, which gives more cause for concern.
Best regards Michael

In a message dated 28/01/2009 14:01:16 GMT Standard Time,
Andy.Evans@thanet.gov.uk writes:

In reverse order and without going into too much detail, the security
checking software for email is different than that of the spam
filtering software.
Other than viruses emails containing profanities are quarantined. Also
there
are other rules that can be setup such as images with a high level of
flesh
colour.

The majority of our spam is stopped by supplied filtering software,
regular
updating of this spam database enables the suppliers to keep up to date
with
current spamming trends. The same as you, we can manually identify a
large
percentage of spam emails from the title only (this is our review
stage), these
are also added to the spam database for future filtering. Finally the
resulting emails that are classified as spam are released to the
officers for them
to make the decision on whether it is spam, again anything they deem as
spam
can be added to the database too for future auto filtering.

I dont think youre being a pain as this communication is still
productive. This not only gives me the reason to question our
procedures and decisions
made by my predecessors, but also your concerns give weight to our
decision
that it will always be necessary to pass some spam onto the users.


Andy Evans
Assistant ICT Manager
Thanet District Council
www.thanet.gov.uk
Direct Dial:01843 577766
Fax:01843 577783


>>> < MichaelChild@aol.com > 28/01/2009 16:03 >>>

Hi Andy thanks for the reply I thought you had run out on me. The flesh

filter has had me and everyone else here in hysterics and will make a
wonderful
blog post. Its almost on a par with Paul Moores one about the member
portal.
See _http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/the_member_portal_.htm_
(http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/the_member_portal_.htm) I hadnt
realised that you
were new to TDC IT and will take a less stringent attitude.
I am afraid the IT department have done some pretty appalling thing in
the
past and TDC have set up mail intercepts in the past too.
What concerns me though is that I cant reconcile your statement When
quarantined emails are reviewed, the technician can only view the
sender, recipient and reason for the quarantine, based upon these
details
the email will be actioned. With what you are saying here.
It doesnt agree with manual identification, which very much suggests
that
you must be manually opening and reading emails.
Incidentally are out going emails scanned in the same way?

Best regards Michael


In a message dated 1/29/2009 10:18:05 GMT Standard Time, Andy.Evans@thanet.gov.uk writes:
I understand this is a difficult process to explain without providing an
extensive and detailed description of how our mail systems actually
work.

My first statement is regarding the quarantined emails from the
security checking software, which is one process. My second statement is
regarding spam emails which pass through a second totally different
system and as explained are treated differently.

For spam we do see the title and dis-regard a large amount which is the
same as you do. Our process differs from yours as we do not read the
content of the emails for the remaining spam, we pass these to the users
to decide themselves.

In case any of my emails suggest differently, I need to reiterate my
comments. IT Services do not censor any correspondence and do not open
or read other peoples emails.

I can confirm outgoing email is cheked the same way.





Andy Evans
Assistant ICT Manager
Thanet District Council
www.thanet.gov.uk
Direct Dial:01843 577766
Fax:01843 577783

Subject: Re: "Sed quis custodies ipso cestodes?" Date: 29/01/2009 10:45:17 GMT Standard Time From: Michael Child
Reply To:
To:
Andy.Evans@thanet.gov.uk
CC:
Donna.Reed@thanet.gov.uk

Thanks Andy I am happy with that and have checked this with a few other people at TDC one of the councillors who I have a very high regard for said after having wound you up so much. ďI guess you should consider yourself lucky that you arenít on a local government email blacklist!Ē
Once again my sincere thanks for your patience and putting up with my sense of humor, I have had a few emails from TDC in the past where expletives managed to slip through the net.
By the way any idea how the new planning website is going, I made a few suggestions about it which I hope were passed on to the IT department.
Finally do feel free to drop in for a cuppa when you are in Ramsgate.
Best regards Michael