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'
- Implementing browser intercept
- Age-verification systems/closed-loop
- Awareness campaign for parents
- 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'.