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UPD UK ISP TalkTalk Claims the Moral High Ground in Proactive Stance on Net Safety

Posted: 18th Oct, 2011 By: MarkJ
parliamenttalktalk uk internet isp privacy concernThe boss of broadband ISP TalkTalk UK, Dido Harding, has moved to take the moral high ground today after claiming to be the "only major ISP prepared to attend and answer questions" at a government meeting about the actions that internet providers have taken to protect children online.

The ISP will today attend a Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection, which is being chaired by Claire Perry MP (Conservative). Four of the country's largest internet providers ( TalkTalk , BT , Virgin Media and Sky Broadband ) "were asked to give evidence" but TalkTalk alleges that the other three have apparently declined. Perry is due to report on the results of her inquiry next month.

The CEO of TalkTalk, Dido Harding, said:

"Creating a safer online environment for children is similar to car safety for children in the 1970s which included the Green Cross Code, compulsory seat belt fitting and wearing and car seat use – it requires input from both industry and Government.

As an ISP we believe that it is our duty to provide our customers with simple and effective tools to empower them to control how the internet is used in their homes. We hope to see other ISPs follow in our footsteps to act quickly and decisively to introduce similar services for their customers."

Last week the same four ISPs agreed to provide new customers (e.g. parents) with an option to block adult web content (here) as part of their subscription process (i.e. "a choice at the point of purchase"); existing customers would also be sent a similar notification.

TalkTalk claims to be the "first ISP to act on parents’ concerns over internet safety" after it invested "significant resources" in developing their free and sometimes controversial (here) network level security service (HomeSafe). In fairness many ISPs have offered parental controls for far longer, although HomeSafe is more aggressive than most third party solutions.

The ISP claims that over 150,000 of its customers have enabled the HomeSafe service since it was first launched in May 2011. TalkTalk states that HomeSafe is also the "only parental control system that allows parents to control how the internet is used across all the devices in their homes". In fairness consumers could also swap their ISP's DNS servers (at the router level) for OpenDNS (free), which would have a similar affect and also includes an option for adult content filtering.

UPDATE 19th October 2011

We contacted both BT and Virgin Media to get their thoughts on TalkTalk's comments. As you might expect both were keen to stress that they had engaged with Ms Perry on many occasions and with all the other (frontbench) Government initiatives (e.g. Bailey Report) on this issue.

A VirginMedia Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

"Virgin Media is committed to protecting customers, their families and their privacy online so, in addition to the current tools we already provide and alongside BT, Sky and TalkTalk, we have been working hard to develop a code of practice to help educate and empower parents to tailor their family’s online experience. We are actively engaged with government and key stakeholders on our continued progress and the steps Virgin Media is taking to help parents create the online experience that’s right for their family."

A BT Spokesperson added:

"We have met and briefed Claire Perry and others interested in this issue on several occasions over recent months. We offered written evidence to the backbench hearings being held, at which we were represented by the relevant trade association, ISPA. BT takes seriously the concerns raised in this area. We are fully engaged in the ongoing Government consultations on these matters.

BT is not convinced that network level controls are as effective at screening material as the PC-based controls we offer. We continue to research the options, but at this time we think they may be too inflexible and irritating for customers as opposed to controls where parents can choose and tailor settings to suit their individual children."
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