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'Trust mark' for smut-filtered Wi-Fi not-so-hot spots

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Providers of public Wi-Fi services could soon display a form of trust mark to indicate their networks prevent access to pornographic content, the UK government has said.

The government said that some major Wi-Fi providers were looking into the possibility of establishing such a trust mark scheme in collaboration with the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).

It said that although some major public Wi-Fi providers had already done so, the remainder would "automatically block pornography websites" and "encourage their business partners to adopt filtering services at sites where children may have access to their free Wi-Fi service".

A trust mark could be developed to signify that public Wi-Fi sites protect children from "harmful content", the government said.

"Parents need to be confident that their children are not exposed to adult content when out and about in public places," Minister for Children and Families Edward Timpson, said.

"Through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) we will push for a firmer commitment from Wi-Fi providers, retailers, shops and cafes so parents are reassured their children will not be able to access pornography when they are away from home.

"To build on this progress, the six main providers [Arqiva, BT, Nomad, Sky, Virgin and O2] are working with UKCCIS Executive Board members to consider whether it would be helpful to have a mark of approval or an industry code of practice," Timpson added.

A number of public Wi-Fi operators already automatically filter out adult content. Vince Russell, managing director of BSkyB's The Cloud, said that it has filters active across 18,000 Wi-Fi hotspots.

Late last year, the government said that internet service providers should encourage customers with children to utilise parental controls. It stepped back from requiring ISPs to automatically block access to pornography and other adult content unless consumers elected to opt out at the point of purchase. At the time the government said there was "no great appetite among parents" for such a default filtering scheme.

In 2011 four of the UK's biggest ISPs announced plans to present parents with "an active choice" over whether to control their children's access to some online content.

BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media said that they had "developed and agreed a code of practice" based on recommendations made in a government-commissioned report on the sexualisation of children published in the summer of 2011.

That report called for the government to regulate if the internet industry did not voluntarily develop better parental controls over online content. Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers' Union charity and author of the report, had raised concerns about the increasing commercialisation and sexualisation of children.

The ISPs' code requires that customers be asked to choose whether to use parental controls when they purchase their network service.

The Open Rights Group, a digital rights campaign group, has previously warned that filtering systems that mobile internet operators currently deploy cut off access to legitimate content.

Copyright © 2013, Out-Law.com

Out-Law.com is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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