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UK ISP TalkTalk Delivers FREE Network Level Broadband Security with HomeSafe

Posted: 09th May, 2011 By: MarkJ
talktalk uk internet isp privacy concernHome phone and broadband ISP TalkTalk has today announced the launch of its new and sometimes controversial HomeSafe service, which is FREE and claims to be the UK's first network level broadband security service. The system is designed to automatically protect customers from bad websites, no matter what device you use to go online with (e.g. mobile phone, PC, iPad etc.).
TalkTalk HomeSafe Solutions

Virus Alerts – a simple click will enable an alert system which blocks web pages infected with any kind of malware, to protect customers’ computers and other devices;

KidsSafe parental controls – allows the TalkTalk account holder to block the content they don’t want to be accessed through their connection, such as pornography, violence and/or gambling.

Homework Time – this allows parents to block social networking sites like Facebook and online gaming which are common sources of distraction for school children from their homework.
TalkTalk claims that all of HomeSafe's settings can be changed, or turned on or off, by the account holder at any time, allowing them to configure them to suit the specific needs of their family. The default setting of the services is 'off'.

Tristia Clarke, Commercial Director of TalkTalk, said:

"Our customers tell us that they couldn’t imagine living without the internet now, especially given how much their children rely on it for school work and social reasons, but they still worry about the innate risks the internet brings with it. In particular they’re concerned about what sort of things their children could stumble across when they’re surfing online.

This is especially important now that children are regularly using devices like phones, and not just the main family PC, to access the internet. Our research found that 33% of children aged 12-17 use their mobile phones to surf social networking sites and 29% use it to instant message when at home.

HomeSafe is our answer to this. Of course, it’s not a silver bullet and it doesn’t absolve parents from the responsibility of knowing what their children are up to online. But our research shows parents understand this. They don’t want their ISP to control what content they can or can’t access online – they just want their ISP to give them the power to implement settings that are right for their family.

That’s what HomeSafe does, and we believe it’s the most comprehensive and effective internet security product available right now. We’ve spent a lot of time working with parents, charities and other groups to get this product right and make it as user-friendly as possible, and we think it will appeal to people who want a safer internet experience for their family."

Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet, said:

"Children under the age of 15 have never known a world without the internet. It’s revolutionised how they learn, play and communicate with each other. But it also comes with potential risks, just as the physical world does, and we know that lots of parents, and indeed many children too, worry about what sorts of material they can be exposed to online.

We are delighted that TalkTalk is offering this new system. We support the introduction and offering of such tools, at no cost to the user, as they can really help parents look after their children online in the same way they would naturally do offline."

However, while the principals of HomeSafe might be perfectly acceptable, some of the systems that it relies upon have become highly controversial. Most of the concern does not centre on the service itself but the method by which it identifies bad websites in the first place.

A separate system, which is managed remotely by Chinese firm Huawei, effectively follows customers around the internet and makes an anonymous record of the website addresses (URL) they visit. Naturally privacy campaigners have been frustrated by this because URL's can also contain private personal data and there is no easy way to block the system without leaving TalkTalk (further details).

TalkTalk counters that 59% of parents are worried that their children could look at inappropriate content accidentally. The same number are concerned about their children downloading a virus or other malware. The research also found 45% of UK adults had experienced malware problems on their home computer in the past three months.
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