TalkTalk’s HomeSafe: security or censorship?
“TalkTalk,” announced the ISP on 15 October, “fully supports the Government’s recent recommendations to help protect children online. We believe in safe broadband, affordable for all, which is why we invested in creating HomeSafe™ – our unique, free, online security.”
What is HomeSafe? I asked them. More than once. And got a full and detailed response to all my queries:
- The user can add extra sites to the block list; can he/she remove specific sites from the blocklist?
If a customer believes that a website has been incorrectly categorised they can report that to us (there is a button on the block page) however they cannot ‘allow’ individual websites on an individual basis.
- How is your block list generated/maintained?
We work with Symantec
- Is your anti-virus engine your own, or do you use a third-party AV system; and if so, which?
We work with Symantec
- How granular is the social networking facility? For example, could I block all social networks except, say, LinkedIn?
See answer to question 1. Of course if a user wanted to, they could block up to 9 networking sites but not say, LinkedIn, using the additional customisation functionality which allows them to block up to 9 additional websites of their choosing.
- Do you have any additional information (whitepapers, etc?) that would help me understand how HomeSafe works?
We don’t have any whitepapers on HomeSafe. There is however some further information available here http://www.talktalk.co.uk/security/faq/
- Is HomeSafe opt in or opt out for new TalkTalk customers?
New and existing customers opt in and choose to turn on one or more (or none at all) of the three HomeSafe features as they wish to.
So what do we now know about HomeSafe? It works with Symantec. Apart from that, it’s not very granular and is pretty much all or nothing. But at least it’s opt-in rather than opt-out. Oh, and we also know that TalkTalk isn’t very talkative.
Recommendations? If you’re a naive home user with little knowledge of computers or security, then opt-in. There will be problems, you won’t get a full internet, and your experience will be censored by a third party. But if you’re that naive, you probably won’t notice.
For everyone else, opt-out. Take responsibility on yourself. Be your own censor. Be responsible for your family. And experience the full, wild, anarchic, dangerous and wonderful world that is the internet.