When you mention “accountability software” to someone, one of the first questions you are likely to hear in return is, “What is that and what does it do?” Perhaps you also have the same question. In an age where accountability is often seen as an inconvenience or a punishment, it is important to consider the true role of accountability software and how it can be used as a tool to foster responsibility and integrity in today’s digital world.

Many of us are accustomed to accountability in several aspects of our daily life. In our careers, we are accountable for the quality and integrity of our work, the way that money is spent, and the way that we make use of our time. In our personal relationships, we are accountable for the things that we say, the places we go, and the things that we do. For most people, these things are done in view of someone else who can hold us accountable to do the right thing and to walk in integrity and purity. But what about on our digital devices?

Today’s digital age has opened an amazing world of possibilities, while simultaneously opening an endless world of temptation. Our digital devices offer us privacy and anonymity from the eyes of others, and suddenly a very prevalent part of our lives is absent of accountability.

This is where accountability software enters the picture. The purpose of accountability software is to provide a means of accountability across digital devices, without taking away any of the functionality and convenience of the digital age. It is a tool to promote openness and transparency in what could otherwise be a very secretive environment.

A good accountability software monitors activity such as web browsing and app usage, and reports this activity to an accountability partner whom the user would specify. Questionable activity, if detected by the software, would also be brought to the attention of the accountability partner(s) so that they could initiate a discussion with the user regarding the nature of the activity. In this way accountability software is a tool, designed to promote openness between individuals to challenge and encourage each other to walk in purity.

Accountability software differs from filtering software in that it does not prevent a user from accessing content or engaging in any sort of activity. The intent of accountability is not to forcefully stop someone from inappropriate activity, but to give them a reason to intentionally choose the path of integrity.

So, what if the software detects inappropriate activity? Accountability software is not designed to fix an issue, but simply to bring it out into the open so that it can be gracefully and effectively addressed. The software is, therefore, a simple tool, but when used within the context of strong relationships between users and accountability partners it can be a simple tool that results in great freedom!

Do you use accountability software? How does it work for you? Please let us know in the comments below!

 

Being accountable on the iPhone/iPad has been a challenge for many iOS users. The challenge is due to the way Apple has designed their operating system (iOS). As a provider for the iPhone/iPad devices, we have seen the issues with providing a solution for this device upfront.

So what’s the big deal?

Why can’t you have complete accountability for the Apple device like you can for the Android device? This is the question we see on a regular basis.  On Android we are allowed to see all activity from all apps. Android has special services that, with the correct permissions enabled, allow an accountability app to monitor the device effectively. Apple is different. The reason for the difference is in the way Apple built their operating system. Think of each app as a box. The app can see everything inside its box, but it can’t see anything outside. So to provide an app that has accountability, the only solution is to have a custom app (our A2U custom browser app) that can provide some form of accountability inside its own box. This is why most of the accountability solutions (if not all of them) have a custom browser that takes the place of Safari and other browser apps. That is why we suggest restricting out all other browsers so the user can be as accountable as possible. The issue with this is that Apple has built its core features around Safari, so by restricting this app (Safari)  you cause other apps to not function as optimally as we’d like.

Here at Accountable2You our goal is to stay out of the way of the user so they can use their device freely. So the custom app approach, while effective, isn’t ideal.

Thinking outside the box…

Different accountability providers have come up with different ways to overcome the box limitation. We have found that a VPN solution works the best for our users.  This allows the user to use Safari (or any browser they choose). It also allows them to use apps that they would have to restrict under the custom browser approach. The disadvantage to this approach is that some apps will not work. Some banking apps and video apps (Netflix, Hulu, etc…) typically have issues in the VPN environment. All that being said, this approach tends to be the best that we have seen and one that we are utilizing for our users.

When it comes to full device accountability, specifically text messages and call logs, neither the VPN solution or a custom browser will work.

GPS accountabilityReal time GPS Tracking/Location accountability

Being accountability while you are on the road is also very important in one’s integrity. This is why our iOS app has GPS/Location accountability built into it. We plot the route you take on a map that is easy for the accountability partner to see. Being responsible for all our actions is what we are all about, and location tracking is a feature we have found to be very beneficial in this endeavor!  This is an optional feature, not one that is required to run the software.

Final thoughts

We admit that providing accountability for iOS is a challenge.  As technology changes we look for any opportunity to provide a richer accountability solution. We tell users who are looking to purchase a new device to buy Android specifically because of the “box” issue with Apple. If Apple modifies their iOS platform to allow a richer accountability solution we’d gladly recommend them as well.

As always your comments are welcome below.

Being accountable while using your Windows PC is a wise decision in this digital age.

There are two main types of monitoring: router based or software based (a program you download and install). Router based software monitors all Internet traffic and rates activity by the domain name. Router options are hard to find and generally more expensive than software based solutions. The second method (software download) is much more popular and is what we use to monitor a users activity. Here is how this process works.

The user would download the software to their computer. During installation the software will ask for some identification – usually a username and password. Once the identification is verified the software sits in the background and collects activity from the device. Based on the provider you use, the records would include strictly Internet activity or app activity. The records are then transported to a central server and kept for the accountability partner to view via online reporting or email reporting. That is really all there is to setting up accountability software on the Windows computer. It is a very simple and straight forward process.

So what about my security? Will my records be safe out in the Internet? These questions are very important as hacking is a serious concern. We can’t speak for other services but we have strict measures in place to prevent unauthorized access to a person’s records. For any service, traffic from your computer to central servers should be protected with TLS security.

What about computers with multi user accounts? How are these monitored?  Privacy is a top concern for any monitoring software especially when it comes down to multi user accounts.  We have found that the best way to monitor multi user accounts is to have the user install the software per user account. It is a bit more work but this approach gives complete privacy control to the users of the computer.

We hope this overview will help you make the correct decision in setting up accountability software on your Windows computer.

 

 

Accountable2You Email Reports

 

Happy 2017! We are starting off the new year with a much needed update to our email reports! We have made a number of updates while keeping all of the content from the old reports.

For starters, the email report summary now clearly shows if there is anything questionable with a device. You can click on the ‘Questionable Activity Detected’ link (indicated by the red alert symbol) to see all of the activity on a certain device.  We have found this to be very helpful in quickly identifying devices that had some type of questionable activity.  The email subject line of the report also reflects the fact that questionable activity was detected.  These key elements are a significant upgrade from past reports!

The second big update is the ‘No Records Found’ entry (indicated by the yellow alert symbol) for the device and GPS Tracking. In the past, if the software wasn’t used we would just show a zero for the activity. With our new reports, we are clearly identifying devices with no activity which could indicated that the software is disabled OR not in use.  The partner should inquire why no records were found.  We have added a support article to help trouble shoot these issues https://support.accountable2you.com/hc/en-us/articles/115001387208-What-to-do-when-No-Records-Found-appears-on-reports-

If no questionable activity is detected on a device, the report will show a ‘Looks Good’ link (indicated by a green check symbol) which will take you to the full report for that device.

The next change we made was in the Questionable Activity section at the bottom of the report. We have broken the devices out for easier reading. The report is ordered by the date/time making the actions of the user easier to decipher.

We believe these updates will really help partners see what is going on and get a clearer understanding of the actions of the user. Our goal is to make communication between the user and partner easy and simple. We have many more exciting updates planned for this year. Stay tuned!

We’d love to know – do you like the new email format? Let us know in the comments below!