Bruce Lawson’s personal site

UK ISPs confirm central database of filter opt-ins

After convincing my Member of Parliament, John Hemming, of the folly of Cameron’s plan to censor the web in the UK (sorry, I mean filter the web), he’s been doing some digging with the ISPs, writing to them to ask whether they plan to store your opt-ins privately on your router, or centrally.

He’s published the answers to his emails to BT, Sky and Virgin. BT were evasive, and TalkTalk didn’t formally respond, but it’s pretty clear they’ll store them in a centralised database. What could possibly go wrong with the government having access to a list of all those who want to see porn or “extremist” sites? It’s not like we live in a surveillance society, is it?

John and I would like to publish a fuller list. If you are a customer of an ISP that’s not on the list, please email them and ask them if they plan to store your opt-ins on a centralised database, what categories they intend to filter (eg, porn, extremism, alcohol, drugs) and how they will categorise them (eg, who will decide whether BNP/ EDL sites are “extremist”?) and paste it into a comment below. Please include the date and time the reply was sent, and who signed it (so we can double-check before publishing on John’s blog).

Thanks!

3 Responses to “ UK ISPs confirm central database of filter opt-ins ”

Comment by Nick

Virgin and Sky say they will not keep a record of sites visited, but I thought UK ISPs were already required by law to keep this information for 12 months?

Comment by Mark Johnson

I emailed my ISP (Utility Warehouse/Telecom Plus) and asked them if they had plans to introduce network-level filtering, and if so, how they would be storing customer preferences.

The email thread is below. TL;DR; They aren’t planning on introducing filtering unless it becomes law. Their customer service agent either thinks that filters are a good idea, or thought I did and felt the need to pander to me, so I explained why I didn’t.

> -----Original Message-----
>
> Sent: 02 October 2013 10:14
>
> To: memberservices
>
> Subject: Customer enquiry from web Broadband
>
> Enquiry: I'm writing to enquire about whether Utility Warehouse has
> plans to implement content filtering as the major 4 ISPs are currently
> being encouraged to do by the government.
>
> If so, I'm particularly interested to know what categories of content
> will be filtered, how these categories are defined, how the filters
> will operate and how each customer's preferences will be stored
> (specifically, if this will be locally on customer devices, or in a
> central database).
>
> Many Thanks
>
> Mark Johnson

On 2013-10-10 13:28, TechSupport wrote:
> Dear Mr Johnson,
>
> Thank you for your email, my sincerest apologies for not getting back
> to you sooner.
>
> I have tried to call you on 08/10/2013 but sadly I was not able to get through.
>
> In regard to the email outlined below, I have looked in to this for
> you and at the government are pushing for this to be implemented, the
> only ISP that is currently trialling this is TalkTalk. As I am aware
> this should be much clearer at the end of the year when it will be
> announce whether it will become a law or not. As you, I too agree that
> this is a fantastic idea and a great way to protect our children from
> such vial imagery.
>
> Sadly at the moment there isn't much we can do but hopefully in the
> very near future we will also be able to provide this.
>
> Hope this information helps
>
> Kind Regards
>
> DAVID MAZRIMAS
>
> TECHNICAL SUPPORT ADVISOR
>
> TELECOM _PLUS _PLC

> Dear David,
>
> By your response, am I correct in understanding that Utility Warehouse
> has no plans to look in to implementing filtering unless it becomes law?
>
> I'm afraid you have misunderstood my purpose for enquiring. I don't
> agree that this is a "fantastic idea" or a "great way to protect
> children". I was enquiring as a privacy-concious consumer who is
> concerned at the prospect of those customers who choose to view content
> deemed "unsuitable" (not just pornography as you seem to be suggesting,
> but also web forums, 'esoteric' material, and a host of loosely-defined
> categories[1]) having their preferences logged in a central database.
>
> Notwithstanding the fact that such filters are likely to be ineffective,
> or that they are likely to generate a lot of false positives blocking
> valuable educational content (how does a computer tell the difference
> between porn and sex education? Eating disorder promotion and eating
> disorder medical advice?).
>
> Please consider this a vote from a long-term customer against Utility
> Warehouse supporting the government's plans for default-on censorship
> and central registration of content preferences.
>
> Many Thanks
>
> Mark Johnson

On 2013-10-11 17:49, TechSupport wrote:
> Dear Mr Johnson,
>
> Please accept my sincerest apologies for misunderstanding your email.
>
> Thank you for your reply, I have duly noted on your account that you
> are against this motion.
>
> You are correct, whilst it is not a law we will not be introducing
> network level content filtering.
>
> Thank you
>
> Kind Regards
>
> DAVID MAZRIMAS
>
> TECHNICAL SUPPORT ADVISOR
>
> TELECOM _PLUS _PLC

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