Posts Tagged ‘parental control’

TalkTalk HomeSafe Proves Popular with Users

August 30, 2011

TalkTalk’s HomeSafe service has proved a hit with users since being launched in May 2011, with over 100,000 customers opting to turn on the system. The Kids Safe and Homework Time filters have blocked over 500,000 browser sessions, helping parents provide a safer environment for their children online.

HomeSafe’s Kids Safe network filter gives parents the option to block different categories of content (as described in this HomeSafe article). According to TalkTalk, the most popular categories of sites parents choose to block are, in descending order:

  1. Suicide and self harm
  2. Pornography
  3. Weapons and violence
  4. Drugs, tobacco and alcohol
  5. Dating
  6. Gambling
  7. File Sharing
  8. Gaming
  9. Social networking

Some people may be concerned about how the system works, what data is stored and what is inspected. We asked Matt Bird, the Head of Product Management for HomeSafe some questions about this. As shown by his responses below, HomeSafe stores no user data and only inspects and compares sites to a list for potential blocking if the customer has opted in:

  •     Q: How automated is HomeSafe and what human input does the system have?
  •     A: The solution is automated but we keep checking categorisation of new sites and modify category classification based on customer feedback (the block page has a report button that logs the website and current category, we check all reported sites and re-classify the website if necessary. This has been 700 websites to date).
  •     Q: Does HomeSafe only inspect traffic from customers who have turned the system on or does the system also inspect (but not act on) traffic from customers not opted in to HomeSafe?
  •     A: HomeSafe checks websites for viruses/malware based on an anonymous list from websites visited by our customers.  For the parental control features we only inspect and compare to a customer policy if they have opted in.  Clearly the customer has to opt-in to get any block pages.
  •     Q: Do all internet service providers inspect traffic anyway?
  •     A: As an Internet Service Provider, we need to look at packet headers, to know there to send them on the Internet.  HomeSafe looks a little deeper at the Website address, to know where they are trying to connect.  We don’t look any deeper, for example customer data.  HomeSafe is a closed system, in that there are no records of which customer goes where.  I can’t tell which websites any customer visits or who received a block page.

Hopefully this will encourage people to take up the HomeSafe solution, which helps protect children from inappropriate web content in an anonymous way without tracking or storing any user data.


Bailey Report Recommends Network Filters

June 14, 2011

The recent Bailey Review highlights many different aspects of the sexualisation of children in society today. Entitled Letting Children be Children – Report of an Independent Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood, the review also lays done some suggestions and action points that should be taken up by various industry sectors and government.

Among the areas looked at was internet pornography, so ubiquitous in our society that it is often considered to be part of the ‘Wallpaper’ of children’s lives. Various scientific disciplines are providing a growing body of evidence showing that exposure to pornography is not a harmless pastime. Especially for children.

The Bailey Review had the following to say to the Internet Service Providers, effectively the major distributor of pornography around the UK:

5. Making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material from the internet: To provide a consistent level of protection across all media, as a matter of urgency, the internet industry should ensure that customers make an active choice over what sort of content they want to allow their children to access. To facilitate this, the internet industry must act decisively to develop and introduce effective parental controls, with Government regulation if voluntary action is not forthcoming within a reasonable timescale. In addition, those providing content which is age-restricted, whether by law or company policy, should seek robust means of age verification as well as making it easy for parents to block underage access. ACTION: Internet industry and providers of age restricted content, through UKCCIS.”

Elsewhere in the review a “reasonable timeframe” is defined as 18 months.

As Jane Turner recently noted in the Times newspaper: “..that computers and mobile phones might, as Bailey proposes, come with their porn filter switched to an “on” default is commendable not only because it will stop offensive imagery popping up unbidden, but more importantly because it is a statement of intent: a declaration that the internet is not an anarchic Wild West empire beyond governmental purview.”

The ISPs recognize the need to offer some protection, indeed many offer, or sell, PC based filters as parental control tools. While this is laudable, we would suggest that network level filters, turned on as standard, would provide another very powerful tool at the disposal of parents, as well as encouraging people to engage with the issue should they choose to turn the filter off.

Talk Talk has lead the way, recently launching their Home Safe service. However, it seems not many TalkTalk customers know about it yet, and it is not “on” by default. Perhaps this initiative, along with the Bailey Review recommendations, will encourage the other ISPs to follow suit.

No filter system will be perfect, but this would be another powerful tool within the Parental Control arsenal.

TalkTalk Launches Home Safe – Includes Pornography Filter

May 10, 2011

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:

  1. Kids Safe:Currently switched off by default, when switched on there are several categories that can be individually blocked including:
    1. Dating
    2. Drugs Alcohol Tobacco
    3. File Sharing Sites
    4. Gambling
    5. Games
    6. Pornography
    7. Social Networking
    8. Suicide and Self-harm
    9. 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).

  2. 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.
  3. 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.

ISP Level Filters – Give Parents the Tools

January 19, 2011

In England there is a growing demand for filters to be provided by internet service providers (ISPs) to allow customers to block porn and adult websites before they even get into the home (the Family Safe ISP). While one ISP (TalkTalk) has responded with some favour to the idea, the other major ISPs currently seemed to be opposed on the grounds that it is up to the parents to control and monitor what their children are seeing.

We agree. It is. However, given that:

  1. Monitoring and filtering each web-enabled device individually in the home is very time consuming;
  2. Computer based filters are often worked around by tech savy children;
  3. Parents just do not have the time to and resources to keep an eye on the multiple PCs, web enabled phones, game consoles etc that exist within a household;
  4. Commercial filters are not currently available or can keep up with the multiplication of web enabled devices;

It is becoming increasingly obvious that a one-stop ISP level filter would probably be the best tool for the job.

So, the ISP’s say it is the parents responsibility to take parental control.

We Agree! So when will the ISPs give us voluntary ISP level filters so we have the best tools to fulfil our responsibility?

We are asking the ISPs to help us, yet they seem to refuse to do so. Maybe it needs legislation, maybe it needs just one to be ‘brave’ and then have a marketing edge on being the Family Friendly ISP for a short time.

Or maybe the ISPs need to consider 10 years down the line. It would not be too surprising to then see someone sue the ISPs for the damage they suffered through inadvertent exposure to porn as a child which the ISPs were able to help filter out, but choose not to do so…. Maybe some shareholders might have a view on whether spending money now on ISP filter is better than possibly spending a lot more later on court cases.

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