BT and Starbucks earlier this week announced plans to put systems in place to block adult content on Wi-Fi hotspots they operate in public places.
The Cloud has been quick to point out that their default option is already to apply adult content filtering on their hotspots, with venues in control of whether to opt out.
"As the biggest provider of WiFi on Britain’s high streets, with over 14,000 hotspots at venues including Greggs, PizzaExpress and Caffe Nero, we welcome the Online Safety Bill. Its key provision, to automatically filter adult content at hotspots in public places, is something we are already doing and gives parents peace of mind that their children are protected from inappropriate material when they’re online at one of our hotspots.
Having spoken to our own venue partners, we know this is a subject that their customers are concerned about and want to see action on. They love having the ability to surf the web when they’re out and about but they also want the confidence that their children won’t run the risk of seeing unsuitable content online in public places. Our filter is applied as default to all our hotspots but venues can choose to opt out from it if they wish."Statement from The Cloud on Wi-Fi Content Filtering
This has come into the focus because the Online Safety Bill which had its second reading in the House of Lords on the 9th November on its long journey to the final step which is Royal Assent. This bill is considering what steps are needed to protect children from the corrupting influence of adult material online, though a lot of the debate in the House of Lords is about what sort of content should be blocked.
" Finally, there is the key issue of which is more effective; opt-in or opt-out. This Bill proposes an automatic filter that individuals would have to opt in to subscribe to pornography by asking their ISP to change the levels. Given the problems outlined above, I suspect that many parents would get incredibly frustrated with the crude nature of the filter and I am concerned that some of them might opt in. I prefer an opt-in system, which asks you as a parent-defined in the wider sense right at the start-when you have a new device, be it phone, TV, or computer, what levels you want to set.
I applaud this Bill. It has the best intentions, but I worry that there are three or four areas which will need to be explored more at Committee stage to provide reassurance that it will not be a crude tool that will defeat its admirable aims of protecting our children."Baroness Brinton talking in Online Safety Bill Second Reading"
The majority of the issues raised online about the good and bad points of filtering systems appears to have been debated, and certainly the issue of over blocking requiring parents to unblock their connection if shopping at a site that also happens to some some 18+ content (which Amazon does by the way) is a very real concern, as this may lead to parents leaving the filters off. Then once rebellious teenagers discover this, they gain lots of friends and before long there may be whispers in the neighbourhood about a household.
The bill has a long way to go with committee stages, more readings and a final change for amendments, so we can expect to see more filtering options appearing without hopefully too much over blocking as service providers decide to self regulate to avoid more costly Government sanctioned schemes.