Warning: Reports with Android or iOS activity may include suspicious background activity.

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  • Updated 3 weeks ago
  • (Edited)
Please pause and read below before coming to any conclusions about your partner’s mobile online behavior.


Recently, we have found that some Android or iOS phones are reporting “background activity” that the user is not even aware of. In other words, the phones are accessing mature sites without the user’s knowledge.


We understand the gravity of this situation, and we are certain that you don’t want to be held accountable for your phone accessing sites without your knowledge. We strive to ensure our service provides an accurate picture of where people are going online.


But we need your help.


First, here’s what we believe is happening.


Some apps on both Android and iOS devices “talk” to servers constantly, even when the user isn’t actively using the device.


This so-called “background activity” occurs for a number of reasons, including to “prefetch” web content to speed up performance later, even if the user never actually decides to access that domain.


We have strong evidence from members that some of this background activity generates network traffic to mature and highly mature domains that are never actually visited.

How common is this problem? We’re seeing mature and highly mature domains being reported at almost twice the normal rate.


Which apps are generating this kind of background activity? We suspect it is only a few apps, but we need your help in identifying them.


If you would like to help us find a solution, please tell us what URLs or mobile apps are causing problems.


Once we identify a set of mobile apps that are sending this kind of background activity, we can advise each other to uninstall those apps.


In addition to identifying problematic apps, we are doing the following to address the situation:


  • We are testing a screen monitoring solution that will more accurately reflect user behavior. This solution holds promise.
  • We are deploying a DNS-based blocking solution in the next few days to all Android users that will block the ability to visit known porn domains This feature will be accessible on the Covenant Eyes App Lock settings page. We are also investigating the feasibility of this solution on iOS.
 We are truly sorry for this situation. Our mission is to provide tools that help men and women live porn-free and to give partners the information they need to meet the responsibilities of their important role.

Our empathy for the lives being impacted by our service is deep and it’s driving us to fix the problem quickly. Whatever it takes.


In the meantime, we urge you to remember that no software or technical solution ever takes the place of honest and transparent conversations.  

Again, please follow this link to join us in finding a solution.

Update 10/8/2018:
We are in-development on a promising solution to a portion of the problem stated above. Through some investigation, we’ve learned that almost half of the Mature and Highly Mature report entries from Android devices occur when the screen is off! Clearly, this means that the traffic during those times couldn’t be deliberate user activity. We’re investigating ways to remove this activity from the Reports. We continue to seek other solutions and will keep you updated on our progress here.


Update 10/11/2018:
We’ve received helpful feedback from customers who have told us about apps that are creating potentially unnecessary Report entries. We’re taking action on those items. We’ve also released a significant update to our reports that helps to clarify some of the DNS activity. We continue to value the information we are receiving from our members as we continue to explore ideas related to even more accurate reporting.

Update 10/17/2018:
Tomorrow we plan to release an update to our Android app that ignores web traffic generated when the screen is off. This should reduce the frequency of these false positives on Android by nearly half. There have been some requests in the comments below for a list of apps that might be generating this activity. We're not ignoring you. We've simply been unable to reproduce the HM background activity from those apps here. Therefore, we're reluctant to 'name names.' We're continuing to explore possible solutions. 
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Patrick Smith, Official Rep

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Posted 3 months ago

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Syd, Official Rep

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Update 10/12/2018:
Above we mentioned a change to the Accountability Report that clarifies DNS activity. Below is a screen shot of the new report module. Note that Mature and Highly Mature domain activity that shows in this module does not generate incidents.



(Edited)
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Daniel Butterworth

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My report shows that I visited ten highly mature sites all within the same minute. I checked through my phone's search history to see if anything registered there as me having visited these sites at any time, and nothing shows up. Yesterday, I was looking up information about car parts and information about a movie I was watching with my wife. I was also playing a word game (Word Blitz) quite a bit yesterday., and I had a number of job recruiting sites sending me emails. I can't figure out what would have caused this sudden flurry of highly mature activity all in one minute other than the scenario you mention here--an app is sending this stuff in the background. Which app? I don't have a clue. I kind of doubt it was my Bible app.
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Joshua Webster

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Is it possible to get a running list of the applications? I have HM content showing up in my reports at times that would be impossible and at speeds far faster than I could consume.
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Beth Stokes

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I agree! Having the list would be helpful as I'm clueless on which apps would be running in the background that would generate this kind of activity. Maybe those apps have settings that can be configured to stop or at least cut down on that activity.
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Jonathan Sabet

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My probation officer uses this and so this could threaten me with jail time if it isn't fixed. I believe pop-up adds are contributing. My phone automatically. Closes them, but that doesn't mean their traffic doesn't show up.
(Edited)
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Beth Stokes

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Jonathan, I would definitely print out this article, making sure that the link is available as well, so that you can provide it to your PO. This activity shows up in a different section of the report, so it's easy to identify. But it's still nerve-wracking I'm sure when it has the potential to cause you legal trouble.
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Jamms992

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Im having the same problem with websights showing up on my report that i have never visited. Its causing me issues with my probation officer as well. I sent him an email including the link to this forum post.
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Lester Bauman

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Android has a setting called "Always sleeping Apps". Apps listed in this setting aren't allowed to run in the background. Also there is a setting called "Data Saver" which might help. I don't like the idea of Android accessing a server in the background because that can cost you data as well as triggering a report by CE. 
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Michael Quinn

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If anybody responds to your question can you let me know quinnsmichael08@gmail.com
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Beth Stokes

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Sure
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Patrick Smith, Official Rep

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There are a few elements in the discussion here, Beth. To which were you referring specifically when you asked about iOS? 

We have seen some background app activity generating HM entries on iOS reports. We are aware of HM activity being generated on iOS even when the screen is off (although at a notably lower frequency than on Android). Off-hand, I don't think that iOS has a setting that addresses this--at least not without creating other complexities for Covenant Eyes on iOS.
(Edited)
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Beth Stokes

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I am referring to a way to stop the background activity like the Android setting Lester referred to. Thanks for clarifying.
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Stan Rowe

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Beth,
I would think with iOS, if you turn off the “background app refresh” under settings > general, then that should stop the apps from running in the background.
If that’s not true, I would like to know.
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Allison Grizzell

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So are these websites things they are actually viewing?
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Naomia Albert

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Supposedly not....
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Patrick Smith, Official Rep

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Hi, Allison (and Naomia). 
Without knowing anything about your specific circumstance, I can't be of much help. If you're able to call Customer Service (989.720.8000), they should be able to give you some direction on how to get more clarity. The Customer Service Representative with whom you speak on the phone won't be able to generate and look at your Report, but they can often help you zero in on the questions to ask the person you're holding accountable. They can also aid you in asking a Report question of our Reports Team. 
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jessica

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So the issue ive noticed is more about secondary content within the browser or things being HM when they really shouldn’t be. For example today I got an email with two links from sites that are rated HM but they got nowhere when you try and access the website. The last one was yahoo sports(my husband plays fantasy football) that was flagged HM. You guys may have nothing to do with the rating of websites idk but thats been the biggest problem weve had. I get emails requesting a review pretty regularly but it hasn’t been an actual problem in months. With IOS I havn’t noticed any reporting at all from apps just websites through the browser.
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Syd, Official Rep

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Update 11/05/2018:

We’re excited to tell you about two great changes to our Android service.

First, we’re making your online life safer by blocking known porn sites by default. We’re doing this by setting Android devices to use CleanBrowsing—a set of filtered DNS servers. This support article gives more information. https://www.covenanteyes.com/support-articles/set-android-app-locking/

Second, we’ve moved the DNS settings into our app lock menu. This means that your Partner can help lock your DNS settings down for you. Also, if you would prefer to use a DNS service other than CleanBrowsing, you or your Partner can change it in the app lock menu.

This is technical stuff, so if you’re not sure what DNS is or how to use it, please read our support article.

If you have automatic updates turned on, you already have these features. Otherwise, check the Google Play store and download today.
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Holger Fleischer

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In the report I see a lot of different domain entries, up to 500 in 15 minutes in that sections, where the items for review occurs and which are unknown by my son. Seems to be background activity from the app itself, not from my son as user

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Robert Rake

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I get friend requests from people i do not know on facebook. They are spam in disguise. When i clicked to see you it was, surprise! There was x rated content. Watch out for that. Also, i have friends who have inappropriate stuff that i stumble on at times.
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Ed Lecuyer

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My reports claim I visit: utahfamilytherapy.com and/or utahfamilytherapist.com. I do not ever frequent those sites, and have no other Internet activity when they are claimed to be accessed. I suspect that it is a background process. It possibly could be coming from a podcast app I use (Podcast Republic) - but I don't know for sure.

I am a PC software developer, so I have familiarity with submitting bug reports and installing/using beta software. Please contact me directly if you (at CE) have anything specific you would like me to try/test.
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Ron Pedersen

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This week's report claims I visited a whole bunch of sites via You Tube. Must be background cause I don't recognize them and I haven't seen anything highly mature for a considerable time .