Public wifi accredited against 'Friendly WiFi' scheme to protect young web surfers

A public wifi accreditation scheme to block pornographic and child abuse websites, videos and images has been launched by digital installers' organisation Registered Digital Institute (RDI).

The "Friendly Wifi" scheme is designed to verify whether a business’ public WiFi service meets a minimum level of filtering to block out access to pornographic and child abuse websites.

Friendly Wifi aims to keep children and young people safe from viewing inappropriate material when logged into public wifi offered in cafes, shops, hotels and restaurants across the UK.

During his 2013 NSPCC speech on online safety, prime minister David Cameron announced that an agreement was in place with the UK’s main wifi providers to commit to applying a level of filtering across all of their standard public wifi services, which are easily accessed by children and young people.

Cameron also highlighted the need to develop an industry-recognised and trusted symbol, which businesses could display to show customers that their public wifi is properly filtered.

Discussions around the development of such a scheme and symbol began 12 months ago, when the RDI was asked to work in collaboration with The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), the government and the UK’s main wifi Providers, to design, develop and launch the UK-wide Friendly Wifi scheme.

Communications minister Ed Vaizey said: “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.”

He said: “This shows that businesses are responding to government’s call to think about how they can help parents protect their children from inappropriate content online.”

Claire Lilley, head of child online safety at NSPCC, said: “Children often go online when they are out and about and parents need to know that using a public WiFi network won’t expose them to pornography.

"So it’s very reassuring for parents to know that when they see the Friendly Wifi logo they can allow their children to go online in safety. However, 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.”

Tesco, which is a Friendly Wifi scheme stakeholder, is using the logo for its free public wifi offered both in store and in Tesco coffee shops. Andrew Uden, category technical manager at Tesco, said: "Friendly Wifi means parents can be safe in the knowledge that we are doing all we can to make sure unsuitable content is not accessible through Tesco wireless networks."

Other brands that have signed up to become Friendly Wifi members include Starbucks and Samsung.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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