Wi-Fi accreditation scheme open to hospitality businesses
The voluntary scheme was designed to protect children from harmful content
The UK government has launched the ‘Friendly Wi-Fi’ licensing scheme an effort to make harmful content inaccessible through public Wi-Fi networks.
From today, businesses are able to opt-in and start displaying the Friendly Wi-Fi logo.
It is believed that this is the first Wi-Fi accreditation scheme of this kind in the world. A similar scheme was previously suggested by Mumsnet, an online community for young mothers.
“The ‘Friendly WiFi’ logo will make clear to parents which cafes, restaurants and other businesses have internet access that is safe for their children to use. It will help these firms ensure that families feel comfortable and make it clear to parents they are choosing a safe online environment,” said communications minister Ed Vaizey.
Friendly Wi-Fi is opposed by free speech campaigners, who see it as yet another attempt at Internet censorship. Earlier this year, the Open Rights Group reported that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the UK already block one in five websites.
A year ago, David Cameron announced that the country’s major Wi-Fi providers had agreed to implement a content filter that would block certain content on networks easily accessible by children and young people. The initiative is supported by UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) and the Registered Digital Institute (RDI).
Friendly Wi-Fi members will filter websites on the basis of a blacklist maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) a UK non-profit that tracks down ‘potentially criminal’ online content. IWF operates in informal partnership with the police, government, public, and Internet service providers, focusing on child abuse websites.
Businesses who offer public Wi-Fi will have to pay a small annual fee to have their services verified by the RDI, which will carry out checks to ensure that the correct level of filtering is in place. Those who have passed the checks will be marked by a colourful Friendly Wi-Fi logo.
Organisations which have already signed up include Tesco, Starbucks and Samsung, as well as the global network provider Purple Wi-Fi. Some businesses have been filtering their Wi-Fi services for a while, including BSkyB’s The Cloud and McDonald’s.
“The Friendly Wi-Fi mark should act as a beacon of reassurance for internet users that Wi-Fi offered in public places meets minimum agreed standards. These standards include ﬁltering the Internet Watch Foundation’s list of abusive images and videos and we are proud to have helped participate in the Friendly Wi-Fi scheme,” said Emma Hardy, director of External Relations at the Internet Watch Foundation.
“As with any filtering measures it’s vital not to be complacent and we urge parents to talk to their children about what they get up to online and what to do if they have any concerns,” added Claire Lilley, head of Child Online Safety at NSPCC.
Last year, Cameron announced changes to legislation that have forced Internet Service Providers (ISPs) across the UK to offer an “opt-out” adult content filter.
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