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Parental Controls back in the spotlight once more
Monday 15 July 2013 12:15:44 by Andrew Ferguson

The Government, or more specifically the Prime Minister and Clair Perry MP have been calling for stricter rules to ensure that households have to be presented with the choice to filter their Internet connection or not as part of a drive to clean up the Internet. Alas over time this has led to a battle of sound bites and opinions that at times are very mis-informed at the technical level and make broad assumptions about parents concerns.

The latest twist in the saga is that a letter from the Department of Education (who ran the flawed consultation on parental controls) has been leaked to Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent at the BBC. The letter covers four main areas where apparently the Prime Minister wants to make some 'specific requests of industry'

  1. Implementing browser intercept
  2. Age-verification systems/closed-loop
  3. Awareness campaign for parents
  4. Using the phrase "default-on" instead of "active-choice +"
Key points from letter to four major providers

What is odd is that this is not debate or asking for whether the providers think this is feasible, but rather this is what they will do, and by the way can we have some money for the awareness campaign. The browser intercept is not some clever snooping technique, but appears to be a method where by a provider will re-direct the end-users web browser to a page where they can make their choices on the filter level to use(probably via a DNS re-direct). While simple enough on its own, making this work across the range of devices people use to access the Internet, e.g. a broadband connection set-up with only a Sky box or games console connected to it.

Reading the letter we are reminded of the days when you used a CD to set-up your broadband modem rather than the case now where for many people they just plug in the hardware and it automatically configures itself.

For families with several children of varying age, I can see some families trying the controls and giving up once they get bored of having to keep logging in switching options on/off so children can finish some homework, or the parents simply want to access a website that has some limited adult content (e.g. 18 rated films on Lovefilm/Netflix) which means it is classed as a blocked site.

A recent Telegraph article on British attitudes to the amount of exposed flesh summarises things up nicely with 'No sex please, we're British'.


Posted by fibrebunny over 3 years ago
When its free to meddle and appeals to the daily wail types you can see why politicians can't resist. Saves them pointing at immigrants or claiming shoes on expenses as stomping on the poor gets a bit messy.

They should just roll out the Victorian values and regulate already before they get any more ideas. People will learn to overcome the inconvenience and circumnavigate the stupidity of it all.
Posted by camieabz over 3 years ago
Wouldn't it be the most simple solution to have ISPs provide routers with a choice of software onboard, with a 'children present' option on sign-up?

I feel that this is fast becoming less about parental control, and more about poe-faced activists.
Posted by mervl over 3 years ago
I wonder if this modern fad for compulsive "voluntary action" is a convenient (but ham-fisted) way of avoiding legislative scrutiny and judicial review. Government has never learned Lord Acton's dictum that everything benefits from examination and discussion.

Can you legislate to make men good? Perhaps David Cameron is trying to succeed where God and women haven't?
Posted by shinerweb over 3 years ago
ISP's could quite easily adopt an OpenDNS type approach, even to the point whereby they simply take their DNS from OpenDNS rather than adopt a complete system of their own.

Simple web portal to select which profile you want to be active. Delay of 3mins between switching profiles. User based filtering, not some draconian ban all for the sake of banning.

Posted by shinerweb over 3 years ago
End of the day though, education of the parents and children will work the best.

I can have all the DNS filtering in the world set up on my home network. The instant my kids leave the house, jump on the schoolbus, they have as much porn as they want via Mobile phone operators. (which is where education kicks in).

Tis about time Mobile operators were mentioned in the same breath as ISPs as these days, I suspect data usage is more likely the main use of their network.
Posted by shaunhw over 3 years ago

Mobile operators already censor. You have to prove to them you are 18 to have it turned off.
Sometimes the censorship is ridiculous with quite innocuous sites made inaccessible.
Posted by Kaufhof over 3 years ago
I don't understand what David Cameron is said to be 'proposing' today (Monday, July 22). He was very 'determined sounding' but not at all clear in an interview on Womens' Hour this morning. The interviewer knew more about it all than he did!
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