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UK internet company will automatically install anti-porn filter for 5.3 million customers

One of the UK's largest internet providers is proving it is serious about it's commitment to online safety.
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Thaddeus Baklinski By Thaddeus Baklinski

Thaddeus Baklinski By Thaddeus Baklinski

One of the UK's largest internet providers is proving it is serious about it's commitment to online safety, especially for children, by making its network-level content filtering software "on" by default, leaving it up to the customer to have to actively turn it off if they choose.

"We’re all aware that cyberspace can present security risks, and that the internet isn’t universally suitable for children," said Lyssa McGowan, brand director for communications products at Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, in a press release.

"And at Sky, when it comes to online safety for all, we take our responsibility very seriously and we want what is best for our customers," McGowan said.

The company's "Sky Broadband Shield" content filter protects users against malware-infected or phishing sites, but also has adjustable settings with age rating options of PG, 13, and 18, as well as customizable settings, or none.

The default setting, which is the 13-year-old age rating, will block sites that deal with dating, file-sharing, violence, drugs, "criminal skills," suicide and self-harm, and pornography, and many more types of objectionable content.

It also can be set up to automatically apply the chosen age rating option at various times of the day so tighter controls will be in place when children are online.

McGowan explained that when a user tries to visit a website deemed unsuitable for children under the age of 13, the parent will be sent a page reminding them to make a choice about filtering. They can accept the current setting, change their protection levels or simply turn Sky Broadband Shield off.

"Once Sky Broadband Shield is active, users cannot access a filtered site unless they choose to log in and alter their settings," she said. "However they can browse away from the filtering page to visit freely any site suitable for the 13 age rating, without any interruptions."

"Sky’s approach," McGowan notes, "helps make it as easy as possible for customers to protect their households. We are encouraging them to use the flexibility within Sky Broadband Shield in order to make the right choice for their personal circumstances. And Sky Broadband Shield doesn’t give us access to what you do online so your privacy will be protected."

Sky customers who haven’t yet chosen either to activate or disable Sky Broadband Shield will be sent an email over the next month advising them that the content filtering will soon be automatically "on."

"What we’re doing now is simply making sure that the automatic position of Sky Broadband Shield is the safest one for all – that’s ‘on’, unless customers choose otherwise," McGowan said.

"We’re happy to act in the interest of customer security and online safety. Knowing our customers and the internet as we do, we believe this is the right and simplest solution to a problem we all know is out there," she concluded.

The UK's internet providers have been offering optional network-level content filters for over a year.

However, research published recently by Ofcom, an independent regulatory and competition authority for the UK communications industries, found that only 21 percent of parents were using the parental controls provided by the internet companies, while a quarter of the parents surveyed said they believed their children could bypass the filters if they wanted to.


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