Do you need to ramp up your broadband controls?

Thursday, 4 July, 2019

In the US, two privacy lawsuits have been filed against Amazon by the guardians of children aged eight and ten.

These lawsuits claim that Amazon has breached the children’s rights in a bid to build better artificial intelligence (AI) – and profits.

Some American campaigners are already concerned about Amazon’s Echo Dot.

Meanwhile in the UK, a report by leading children’s charity Barnardo’s claims children as young as five are becoming addicted to social media.

And another study says England is the worst country in the world for student cyber bullying.

It seems our youngest and most vulnerable people are at risk, but who is responsible for their online safety?

Is it their parents or social media companies? Or is it the broadband suppliers, who open the doors to the Internet?

In fact, there are many ways for broadband customers to control their own online safety.

It can be done using controls provided by hardware, software and their broadband company.

But it’s not foolproof, and even our best efforts leave one question unanswered.

If we want AI and voice-activated gadgets to make life easier, do we have to trade our online safety and privacy to get them?

Will somebody think of the children?

It’s common to hear people claim that assuring the online safety of young and vulnerable people is easy.

‘Just don’t let them go on the computer unsupervised,’ they say. ‘They won’t get into trouble if you watch over them.’

But many aspects of study, work, shopping, socialising, hobbies and leisure time demand internet access at some point.

Broadband is now such an essential utility, it’s hardly realistic to supervise the whole family whenever they are online.

So what can broadband customers do?

Help is on the way

We’re waiting eagerly for politicians to force big tech and social media companies to take better care of their users. But in the meantime, help is available from many sources – including broadband suppliers.

Some of the big broadband suppliers and tech firms already collaborate in a not-for-profit platform called Internet Matters.

This provides information and tips to keep users safe online.

In particular, they offer step-by-step guides to using the controls offered by each broadband provider and setting controls on smartphones and other devices.

They also explain how to set controls on gaming platforms like Roblox, PlayStation and Nintendo.

Of course with greater use of mobile devices comes more use of public WiFi, so it’s worth checking out Friendly WiFi, and the controls available from the user’s mobile network.

At home, you can control devices by setting controls on your router.

But while that protects everyone using your WiFi, as soon as those devices leave the house or connect to 3/4/5G or other external network, they revert to the controls set on the device.

Using router controls alone is often not enough, and the device must also be ‘locked down’.

Voice-controlled devices need voices to learn from

This is all fine, but what about smart devices and voice-controlled applications like Alexa?

Those American legal cases raise many questions, and nobody can yet answer them.

Perhaps, as the lawsuits claim, Amazon wants to harvest and store data – in this case voice recordings.

But if we want bigger and better AI – and Alexa and her peers are just that – then we will simply have to feed AI algorithms with more and more data to learn from.

Ideally, that would come from adult users of smart devices who have agreed to the use of their data.

But what about visitors who use the speaker without having read those terms and conditions?

Or children, who mimic their parents’ words to use the speaker?

The Internet of Things is still very young, but we know how quickly new tech gets adopted. Sooner or later, we will have to soothe the tensions between better tech and more privacy.

At the moment, evidence suggests some people are harmed by digital applications, so it makes sense to optimise their online safety.

Controls at the router, device and provider level can all be effective. But it remains to be seen whether online safety continues to increase, or if it’s sacrificed for our love of new tech.

Neil Cumins author picture

By:

Neil is an expert tech writer. He's written hundreds of guides on all things broadband!

News What's the story?

Keep up with the latest developments in UK broadband.

UK 5G network goes live – are you up to speed?

Here's everything you need to know about the new mobile broadband network.

UK 5G network goes live – are you up to speed? Read more

TalkTalk offers exclusive £80 reward to new fibre customers

The huge bonus is available to anyone signing up for a 'Faster Fibre' bundle through BroadbandDeals.co.uk

Read more

TikTok ‘gifts’ empty kids piggy banks

Children are most vulnerable to 'influencer' donation pleas

Read more

Netflix ruins 90’s cartoon, enrages internet

The streaming giant came in for criticism for 'straightwashing' Japanese cult classic anime.

Read more

Porn-block pushed back by clerical errors

Further delays to the child-protection measure, with the process mocked as an 'utter shambles'.

Read more

How to watch Wimbledon online for free

How to make sure you don't miss out on the action from your favourite sports stars.

How to watch Wimbledon online for free Read more

Fast fines for ISPs could end the “Loyalty Penalty”

But could the proposed measures mean worse deals for those who shop around?

Read more

Boris Johnson mocks full-fibre roll-out plans

The likely next PM boasts plans to beat current targets by 8 years, but is it all just hot air?

Read more

Broadband and phone companies to put Fairness first

Telecoms providers commit to raising standards.

Read more

UK to get legal right to decent and affordable broadband

New legislation will ensure minimum speeds for every UK household.

Read more

GDPR – One year on

The landmark legislation gave people the ‘right to know’ when their data had been hacked.

Read more

Help Learn with us

Make the most of the internet with our broadband library.

How to childproof your home broadband

How to childproof your home broadband Read more

Why Ofcom’s USO is more than pie in the sky

Read more

Protecting your small business against cyber attacks

Read more

Could 5G end fixed-line home broadband?

Read more

How broadband availability varies across the UK

Read more

Which social media platforms should I be on?

Read more

Will you get online on holiday?

Stay connected during your get-away.

Will you get online on holiday? Read more

Make the most of your broadband overnight

Read more

The main causes of slow internet connections

Slow broadband can be more than just an irritant - but what causes it, and what can we do to fight back?

Read more

Do you need to ramp up your broadband controls?

Read more

The different types of home computer

Read more
Back To Top