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Network Associates frees its filter ware

The security software specialist's parental-control software heads out on its own as the company eyes the market for fencing off bad Net neighborhoods from kids.

Security software specialist Network Associates has decided to let its software for filtering out smut from the Internet forge its own way.

Citing internal studies that indicate parents are increasingly concerned about what their children are doing on the Internet, the company will start selling the filtering software as an application separate from its McAfee Internet Security suite starting mid-November in Wal-Mart stores, said Ardi Kazarian, senior product manager for the company's McAfee division.

"Parents are looking for filtering software but not necessarily in a whole suite," she said.

The move puts the company's latest product in the arena with several other Internet filtering applications aimed at home PC users, including struggling Net Nanny Software's Net Nanny 5 and SurfControl's CyberPatrol.

Called McAfee Parental Controls 1.0, Network Associates' new application will stitch together various features from the McAfee Internet Security suite, including the ability to block Web sites, filter certain discussions in chat sessions based on keywords, stop children from sending out personal information, and allow access to the Internet only at certain times of the day. All settings can be tailored to each person.

Internet filtering has caused contention over whether the software will dilute the value of the Internet. Civil libertarians have opposed the installation of filtering software in public schools, and portions of the Children's Internet Protection Act that would have required libraries to install such software have been struck down.

Despite the debate, Internet filtering has been on the rise in public libraries, reaching 43 percent of them in January, up from 31 percent a year earlier.

Network Associates plans to sell the filtering software for $20. The company's McAfee Internet Security retails at $70.