ISP invites religious groups to set parental controls

11 Jul 2012

Claranet wants religious groups to serve as internet "Guardians" - but won't identify them

ISP Claranet is inviting religious groups, schools and child safety experts to set parental controls for its customers.

Claranet is following in the footsteps of TalkTalk with the launch of its network-level content filtering system, Childsafe. However, it's going a step further than its larger rival by allowing parents to choose content filters selected by so-called "Guardians".

What we don't want to become is supportive of any particular organisation or view

The company says it is recruiting volunteer Guardians from a number of different organisations, although it remains curiously coy about identifying them. A press spokesman for the ISP said that an "Islamic advisor" and child safety campaigner Sara Payne were among them, but when pressed by PC Pro to identify the Islamic expert or other Guardians, Claranet director Jason Keen declined to comment further.

Keen said the company currently has five Guardians signed up, but they plan to add many more. "We're trying to release a balanced list of Claranet Guardians as they come through," he told PC Pro. "What we don't want to become is supportive of any particular organisation or view."

How it works

The Claranet Guardians will be asked to choose whether they think 140 different categories of internet content are appropriate. Within those categories, the Guardians can choose to add or remove individual websites from the blacklists, which are created by a third-party company that Claranet also refused to name. For example, a Guardian may decide that Bebo is acceptable within the Social Networking category, but choose to block Facebook.

Claranet customers can choose to set up and customise their own filters, or accept a pre-selected list from one of the Guardians and edit that themselves if they choose.

Schools may, for example, create lists suitable for different age groups. However, because the filtering is applied at the network level, parents can only apply one set of filters across the board, potentially creating problems for households with children of different ages.

Better than TalkTalk?

Claranet becomes only the second British ISP to offer network-level filtering, which a group of MPs led by Conservative Claire Perry is lobbying to be made mandatory for all British internet providers.

A recent PC Pro investigation exposed critical flaws in the TalkTalk HomeSafe system, which allows children to access pornographic images and videos using nothing more sophisticated than the leading search engines.

Grant Kaufmann, the CEO of Cleanband - which is providing the filtering service for Claranet - said he was confident the Claranet system would offer better protection. "We've also looked at TalkTalk and have found similar failings," he said. "Obviously nothing is 100%, nothing is guaranteed, but we're pretty confident we're covering all of those [flaws]."

He said Google Images and proxy servers would be blocked, but only if parents chose to block the "image search" and "proxies" categories, or if they had been pre-selected by their chosen Guardian.

"We're very much about providing the choice," Kaufmann said. "If you want to allow gambling websites, you can allow it. We can envisage a situation where people would only block known malware sites... and they can allow everything else."

The Childsafe service is available now to Claranet customers.

On sale Thursday

Read full details of our investigation into TalkTalk's content filters and our real-world guide to parental controls in the new issue of PC Pro, on sale 12 July

PC Pro issue 215

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