TalkTalk is the first major UK Internet Service Provider (ISP) to launch ISP side content filtering. Free to TalkTalk users, for the first time, this gives parents and account holders the ability to block some specific content before it enters the home in the first place. M0st people favour ISP level filters, a recent poll suggests, and this is a very welcome development.
Branded Home Safe, the free TalkTalk service provides three specific tools that helps parents manage internet access for the whole home at one source:
- Kids Safe:Currently switched off by default, when switched on there are several categories that can be individually blocked including:
- Drugs Alcohol Tobacco
- File Sharing Sites
- Social Networking
- Suicide and Self-harm
- Weapons and Violence
In addition, the user can enter the domains of up to 8 other specific websites they want blocked (not a lot, but a start).
- Homework Time: Currently switched off by default, this panel controls the time that Gaming and Social Networking sites can be accessed by the household. When turned on, the account holder can change the specified times to suit their needs, with an additional option to have these settings only applied on weekdays.
- Virus Alerts: Currently switched off by default, when switched on this setting blocks access to websites infected with viruses.
On the whole, this is an encouraging and welcome development, and makes TalkTalk the first major UK ISP to recognize the need for house-wide protection. Especially as traditional device-level (computer based) filters can not provide protection for the growing plethora of web-enabled devices.
We have not been able, as yet, to find out how the filtering system works, and neither can we obviously see options to report either sites that are being incorrectly blocked or suggest those that the filter is missing. These tools would also be very welcome.
As with any such technology, no doubt this one will be imperfect and have it’s problems. However, for the first time an account holder has an easy way to add a layer of protection to the whole house in one go. It therefore makes a very useful addition to other tools such as OpenDNS and computer filter / web-blocking programmes. And it is free to TalkTalk users.
As noted by TalkTalk in this BBC report, these filters are not intended intended as a cure-all. As a spokesman for the compnay said, “This is the most robust system that’s available but what it’s not is a substitute for good parenting.”
If you have any comments / experience or problems using the TalkTalk filters, then please post them. You never know, TalkTalk may be following.