Feeds

TalkTalk serves up website blocking to users

First we stalk, then you walk the limited interwebs walk

Boost IT visibility and business value

TalkTalk just became the first major UK internet service provider to implement network-level anti-malware blockers on its service.

The system has arrived later than originally planned, after the company quietly begun following its customers around the web and scanning what they looked at last summer as part of TalkTalk's development of the new anti-malware system it has dubbed "HomeSafe".

It had expected to launch the system late last year, but in July 2010 Information Commissioner Christopher Graham chided TalkTalk for following its 4.2 million customers around the web without telling them.

He said at the time that he was disappointed that the firm kept the trials of its anti-malware system quiet at a meeting with TalkTalk, where he cited the exposure of BT's controversial and similarly unpublicised trials of Phorm's targeted advertising technology.

Last month the Crown Prosecution Service confirmed that it would not be prosecuting anyone in BT's secret trials of Phorm's web-monitoring system.

Now that the blocking features and parental controls of the system have been activated by TalkTalk, the ISP's customers are being asked if they want to opt in at no extra cost.

The system was provided by Chinese vendor Huawei and works by harvesting every URL visited by every TalkTalk customer. It then follows them to each web page and scans for threats, creating a master blacklist and a whitelist of dangerous and safe URLs.

HomeSafe comes with three features, said TalkTalk. Virus Alerts blocks webpages infected with any kind of malware. KidsSafe parental controls allows the account-holder to block porn, violence, and other content they don't want access to via their connection. There's also a Homework Time option that allows parents/carers to block sites such as Facebook.

TalkTalk adopted a paternalistic line about that final feature, by describing the dominant social network as a source "of distraction for schoolchildren from their homework."

The account-holder can switch between settings at any time, said TalkTalk.

As for the company's run-in with the ICO, TalkTalk provided the commissioner with documents to support its public claims that the technology and the trials complied with privacy laws.

It is unclear if TalkTalk's quiet trials will be the last of their kind in the UK. But the recent planned changes to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act could put an end to all that. The Home Office has declared that companies placing notice of monitoring into fine-print terms and conditions would not be taking strong enough measures to count as "consent" from customers to such a seemingly stealth-stalking mechanism. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
Trans-Pacific: Google spaffs cash on FAST undersea packet-flinging
One of 6 backers for new 60 Tbps cable to hook US to Japan
Tech city types developing 'Google Glass for the blind' app
An app and service where other people 'see' for you
UK mobile coverage is BETTER than EVER, networks tell Ofcom
Regulator swallows this line and parrots it back out at us. What are they playing at?
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.