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TalkTalk Claims to be the First UK ISP to Offer Active Choice for Parental Controls

Posted: 07th Feb, 2012 By: MarkJ
uk department for educationtalktalk uk internet isp privacy concernBroadband ISP TalkTalk claims to have become the first UK internet provider to give new customers (i.e. parents) an "Active Choice" about whether or not to block adult web content as part of their subscription process (i.e. "a choice at the point of purchase").

By the end of February TalkTalk states that all new customers will be asked upfront if they want to activate the ISPs free network level internet filtering service (HomeSafe). BT , Virgin Media and Sky Broadband have also agreed with the UK government to do the same (original news), although it's not clear how advanced their implementations are.

Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, said:

"Ensuring new customers make an active choice about parental controls is a good start in improving the protection for children online. It will mean new customers will have to decide whether they want parental controls on their Internet access. I look forward to continuing to work with industry to ensure children can safely enjoy the Internet."

Dido Harding, CEO of TalkTalk, added:

"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 wearing and car seat use. While no technical solution alone can solve the issue of internet safety, we believe that it is our duty as an ISP to provide our customers with simple and effective tools like HomeSafe to help them protect their families online. We hope that by offering all new customers an upfront choice about activating HomeSafe they will realise there is a wealth of support available to them."

The ISP claims 60% of parents worry that their child might accidentally look at "inappropriate content" online and just 31% of parents were very confident that their child is protected from online threats.

But passing the buck onto ISPs, which seems to be an increasingly common pastime for the UK government, ignores the fact that Parental Control solutions and software are already widely available. Such services are also no substitute for good parenting, easily circumvented and sometimes end up blocking the wrong content (e.g. educational pages).

On the other hand ISPs aren't actually offering anything radically new, except for making the availability of such features more obvious. The real danger is that some parents might enable these features and then incorrectly assume that the internet is now safe.
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