Skip to main content

ISPs and content filtering databases

I wrote an article published in PC Pro which explained why the technical approach to content filtering is one which should cause concern. The essence of the article is that it is wrong to have a centralised database which records everyone's content preferences and that this information should be stored in the domestic router (as some routers do).

As it currently stands the four largest ISP's all offer systems which use a centralised database. The following are the comments that I have from each of the ISPs.

Virgin Media said:
We're in the process of transitioning from our existing device-based parental controls solution, to a new, DNS network-based solution. By the end of 2014 all new and existing customers will be given the choice of whether to implement these new controls. Through a robust, two-step verification process, we will ensure it is only the adult account holder who makes the decision on whether to apply the filters.

Our new solution is applied at a household router level. It uses the IP address assigned to the subscribers' router to deliver a consistent level of filtering to any and all devices connecting to that home broadband connection. We have procured and invested in the solution in line with Government's desired objective of "whole home" filtering.

Where a subscriber has opted in to apply the filters, DNS lookups associated with that subscriber's IP address will be analysed against our block list to determine whether access is permitted. Only subscribers that opt in to the filters will have their DNS lookups analysed.

Whilst it is clearly necessary for us to retain data on whether an IP address has selected filters in order for us to implement them, details of sites accessed by subscribers will not be recorded unless specifically required for diagnostic purposes, and will not be retained after diagnosis is complete.

Our solution does not utilise Deep Packet Inspection technology. As such, our systems only get sight of URL data, unlike systems that use DPI which have the capability to view all traffic passing across the network.

Sky said:
We are committed to providing our customers with all the tools they need to keep their families safe online. As a result, we will be rolling out a ‘whole-home’ filtering service before the end of the year. This will give our customers complete piece of mind, letting them control the type of content that is available across all internet-connected devices used in the home.

The system will use DNS technology to identify the websites that need to be filtered out according to a customer’s preferences and will not use deep packet inspection technology.

To make this solution work, we need to store the level of filtering required by each customer and we will not keep a record of individual web queries. The information on the choices customers have made about what content to filter out is also subject to stringent data protection measures

We don't have a formal response from TalkTalk, but their system appears to operate based upon a proxy server. With a central database.

BT said:
We at BT take seriously the need to keep children as safe as possible online. The Government has been clear in its online child safety agenda about its desire to see ISPs do more to make all their customers aware of and apply filtering tools. BT is responding to that. We take customer privacy, data protection and confidentiality of customer records equally seriously in doing so.

Our child protection filters are optional . There are multiple filtering categories of which pornography is but one – and this has always been the case. By the end of next year all new and existing BT customers will be given the unavoidable choice as to whether to block pornography, but as before, they can also choose to block any of the existing other categories: these will be applicable to all devices in home. BT and other ISPs are required to have in place a process which ensures that the internet account holder is not by passed in the setting, re-setting or alteration of filtering choices. This is to ensure that children in households cannot bypass parental choices without their knowledge.

To conclude. All the four top ISPs operate a central database. TalkTalk's system is the most intrusive as it also tracks the individual pages that people look at.


Popular posts from this blog

Statement re false allegations from Esther Baker

Statement by John Hemming
I am pleased that the Police have now made it clear that there has been a concerted effort to promote false criminal allegations against me and that the allegations had no substance whatsoever.
I would like to thank Emily Cox, my children, Ayaz Iqbal (my Solicitor), my local lib dem team and many others who supported me through this dreadful experience. There are many worse things that happen to people, but this was a really bad experience.
It is bad enough to have false allegations made about yourself to the police, but to have a concerted campaign involving your political opponents and many others in public creates an environment in which it is reasonable to be concerned about ill founded vigilante attacks on your family and yourself. Luckily there was a more substantial lobby to the contrary as well, which included many people who were themselves real survivors of abuse, which has helped.
I am normally someone who helps other people fight injustice. …

Statement re Police investigation into Harassment and Perverting the Course of Justice.

It was recently reported that the police were not investigating the allegations of Perverting the Course of Justice that I had made. This came as a surprise to me as I had been told for some time that my allegations were to be considered once the VRR had been rejected. I have now had a very constructive meeting with Staffordshire police on Friday 29th June 2018 and the misunderstandings have been resolved. At that meeting the evidence relating to the perversion of the course of justice and the harassment campaign against my family were discussed. The police have decided to investigate both the perversion of the course of justice and also the harassment campaign. I would like to thank them for changing their decision and I accept their apology for the way in which they did that. I am also in possession of written confirmation a police force would be investigating allegations that a vulnerable witness has been harassed for trying to expose the campaign against me. I hope that the aut…

R v SUSSEX JUSTICES ex p McCARTHY [1924] 1 KB 256

I have only just found this one which I think is accurately reported below (but if it is not please give me an accurate report).


R v SUSSEX JUSTICES ex p McCARTHY [1924] 1 KB 256

November 9 1923

Editor’s comments in bold.

Here, the magistrates’ clerk retired with the bench when they were considering a charge of dangerous driving. The clerk belonged to a firm of solicitors acting in civil proceedings for the other party to the accident. It was entirely irrelevant that there had been no evidence of actual influence brought to bear on the magistrates, and the conviction was duly quashed.

It is clear that the deputy clerk was a member of the firm of solicitors engaged in the conduct of proceedings for damages against the applicant in respect of the same collision as that which gave rise to the charge that the justices were considering. It is said, and, no doubt, truly, that when that gentleman retired in the usual way with the justices, taking with him the…