COUNCIL computers have been used to access blocked 'adult' websites at a rate of more than once a day.

Barrow Council staff computers were used to visit websites blocked by a firewall more than 160 times in a 90-day period, according to data obtained under freedom of information laws.

All the 161 visits to banned web addresses were classed as 'adult' by the council's filters.

Many of the websites feature a domain used to by search engine Bing to filter 'explicit images and video content' - although the sites visited appear to be innocent.

The list of blocked websites visited includes addresses no longer accessible as well as searches for housing regulations and 'short to mid-length hairstyles for older women'.

The council was only available to provide data for the past 90 days.

Council staff are said to be able to use the internet during their lunch hour as long as usage complies with policies. 

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Websites can also be incorrectly categorised by stringent firewalls used to keep the authority's network secure.

A spokeswoman for the council said: "All councils deploy extremely high levels of cyber security with settings kept at the tightest level possible.

"Unfortunately, this does mean that many legitimate sites that are useful in a work capacity can be blocked, quite often because one small part of the site doesn't meet the stringent requirements.

"Websites can also be incorrectly categorised - a process that happens automatically.

"Members of staff are able to use the internet during their lunch hours as long as usage complies with council policy.

"This can also result in legitimate sites being blocked by the security settings in place.

"In summary, false positives are simply a part of balancing the high level of security all local authorities need with accessibility."

A document outlining the council's information security policy said 'all personnel should be aware that the use of e-mail and access to the internet are controlled and monitored'.

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