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:
- Suicide and self harm
- Weapons and violence
- Drugs, tobacco and alcohol
- File Sharing
- 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.