Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by BT


  1.  BT is pleased to contribute to this inquiry. This paper is based on our recent submission to the Byron Review, since the issues raised in that Review are very similar to those being considered by the Committee.

  2.  The rapid development and take up of new technologies by all parts of society, and by people of all ages, raises fundamental questions, including some concerning the extent to which people need to be educated in the ways of protecting themselves in the electronic world we all now inhabit.

  3.  The inquiry is looking at issues involving legal content, where judgments which can be made about the potential of material to harm or be characterised as inappropriate are individual, personal and dependent on context. It is entirely legitimate for people to make and reach different judgments, and within a household for judgments to vary between adults, and between adults and young people and children. Decisions on supervision levels and how to reconcile differences in views within households are for individuals to make.

  4.  Such issues and how to deal with them are not specific to new technologies: they are equally issues in the off-line, traditional world of paper publications, radio and television broadcasting, video, CD, DVD, etc. It is important to avoid fundamentally different principles being adopted in relation to "new technologies". As with the off-line, traditional world, care is needed in the nature of interventions by outside parties (including Government or suppliers of services) to ensure that they are not over-intrusive, do not provide the means for individuals to abdicate their responsibilities, and do not substitute the judgments of those intervening for those of consumers.


—  as a provider of networks and services

  5.  BT is a communications provider. It develops and deals with new technologies. It has a long-standing commitment to, and involvement in, societal issues related to communications, Corporate Social Responsibility, education and inclusiveness.

  6.  In the context of this Review, BT provides:

    —    fixed Internet services—where its role is primarily as a provider of the means for communications to take place, but not determining the content going through its systems;

    —    mobile services—where BT is not a Mobile Network Operator and does not, therefore, control access to the Internet via mobile networks; and

    —    wireless applications—eg Wireless cities, BT Openzone, BT FON—which allow Internet access from non-fixed locations.

  7.  As further background to the Review and the industry it affects, it is important to understand that:

    —    there are many players involved—hardware/device manufacturers and vendors; software producers and vendors; content producers and vendors;

    —    there is usually no-end-to-end usage of just a single network, such as BT's—instead there are a host of combinations, largely determined by users' own choices; and

    —    consumers use devices to access the Internet—devices that plug into (physically or in a virtual sense) networks and then control the way the user sees Internet content. The choice of devices is almost endless, with a range of different capabilities, and in a highly innovative and, therefore, rapidly changing market.

—  as a corporate citizen:

  8.  BT has taken a leading role in providing opportunities to all through its network and products and through its work with the educational and voluntary sectors. We believe that information and communications technology can improve people's lives and open doors to education, jobs, entertainment and friendship. However, people need to have access to the Internet and a computer, and then the skills and confidence to use them if they are to reap the rewards available. We recognise that this can be particularly difficult for young people, the elderly and for people with disabilities.

  9.  We are engaged in many initiatives to help people gain the access and skills they need. For example, we are supporting EverybodyOnline, a project designed to help disadvantaged communities get online. EverybodyOnline has a network of public Internet access points around the UK that give local people the chance to try out new technology and learn how to use computers and the Internet. We have been making technology accessible to those with disabilities, through our Age and Disability Action unit for many years. We are the first major UK company to provide a British Sign Language section on our website.

  10.  The inquiry complements but does not deal with aspects of online safety that are subject to the criminal law. In relation to the broader picture on online safety, BT continues to engage with various initiatives reaching across Government, NGOs and industry, and with its own customers, to understand and play its part in addressing concerns. BT has led the way in trying to deal with online child pornography, through its Child Abuse Initiative ("Cleanfeed") project, which deters access to sites identified by the Internet Watch Foundation as illegal.


  11.  Others will no doubt provide a wealth of input on the issue of benefits to individuals, families, society and the economy from the use of new technologies. Even without empirical evidence, it is obvious that new technology provides new ways of doing things better and faster than before, across a range of social, education and work-related uses. Amongst many benefits, these provide enriched opportunities for people to learn and to develop, they offer ways for geographically separated friends and families to stay in touch, and they make it easier for people to research, analyse and distribute the fruits of their work.

  12.  For the future success of the UK economy and, therefore, for society as a whole, it is imperative that the UK is ready for global competition in the 21st century—which will be between and within knowledge economies. A knowledge economy requires world-class education, an environment that encourages entrepreneurialism, and a competitive cost base. The UK has to work at being world-class in all of these—we cannot presume to automatic leadership in any area, and the competitive challenge is increasingly coming from Asia.

  13.  The next generation of global competition will, therefore, have a profound impact upon the competitiveness of the UK. Tough choices must be made in the fields of education, innovation and productivity to take advantage of the major economic changes which lie ahead. Broadband networks, fixed and wireless, are changing the nature of the economy, the way we do business, the way we learn, and the way we use our leisure time. Increasingly, businesses will outsource activities across the world—this means skilled, financial and intellectual jobs. The UK needs to develop high-value skilled jobs and people to avoid the whole value chain being outsourced.


  14.  Safe usage of the Internet is the subject of many initiatives recognising, in the case of children, that they are less experienced in the ways of the world and may have a propensity to divulge more information about themselves to strangers than they ought. This, of course, is an issue much wider than just in the online environment.

  15.  BT provides comprehensive parental control protection to all its narrowband and broadband customers, as well as anti-virus and firewall products. The parental controls are provided by Yahoo! and enable parents to block websites considered to be unsuitable, restrict the number of hours and the times of the day that children access the Internet. The service has a Kids, Teens and Mature Teens setting to enable parents to protect their children. Each child's setting can be personalised with more or less protection as required.

  16.  These parental controls also protect against Instant Messaging (IM) abuse by blocking IM altogether, or restricting contact to friends only (approved by the parent), blocking webcams, file transfer, voice communications, chat rooms and multi way conferencing.

  17.  Parental controls also protect email usage by blocking use completely, restricting contact to just those in the approved address book and blocking attachments. The service can also block access to chat and group services and to community services provided by BT such as BT Yahoo! Answers (where people can post questions or answers).

  18.  There is wide choice of parental control software available for computers, allowing content to be filtered for children. There are new devices appearing that are able to connect to the Internet in the home (often using WiFi), some of which come with parental controls and some of which do not. More device manufacturers are likely to include parental controls as standard and we anticipate that software companies offering parental controls will expand their product offerings to cover these new devices as they become more popular.

  19.  As part of the BT Total Broadband product the majority of customers are provided with a wireless (WiFi) router, which allows customers a flexible way of connecting their computer to the Internet rather than relying on a fixed wired connection. All of the BT routers provided to customers have the security switched on automatically, which means that the customer has to use a password provided to them to gain access to the Internet connection. BT Yahoo! Parental controls work on a customer's computer regardless of whether a wired or a WiFi connection to the Internet is used.

  20.  BT also provides customers the opportunity to gain access to the Internet using BT FON and BT Openzone WiFi hotspots while out and about. Yahoo parental controls will work on the customer's laptop if it is used in a WiFi hotspot. To access the Internet the customer also needs their user name and password.

  21.  Internet security is both a product issue and a consumer concern. Amongst other things, consumers should:

    —    understand the risks and safeguards available;

    —    ensure firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software are installed;

    —    keep these protections up to date;

    —    keep their computer operating systems up to date;

    —    protect personal and financial details; and

    —    set up parental controls where children are computer users, and move the computer to a family room.

  22.  To supplement the actions consumers should be taking themselves, ISPs can take additional measures on their behalf. For example, BT uses a spam detection system called "Spam Buster", which not only tracks down "professional" spam emanating from the BT network but also protects individual PCs against being hijacked to produce more spam.

  23.  BT is committed to providing the best possible protection for its customers and not only offers a range of protection in the network but also a wide range of security features as part of the email, narrowband and broadband ISP service to UK consumers. See Annex 1 for a description of these, which are in addition to the child protection measures covered in the paragraphs above.

  24.  It is sometimes said that the uptake of parental controls is low. It is worth noting that less than one third of UK households have dependent children, so any take up figures need to reflect that two thirds of households do not have dependent children (source ONS May 03). Having said this, we estimate that 42% of our broadband customers that have children aged between 5 and 15 have set up BT Yahoo! parental controls. In addition to this, some parents are likely to have taken other measures or installed software other than BT's.

  25.  In a recent GFK survey, parents had taken the following steps to protect their children on-line: (base 502 parents with children aged six to 16):

    —    83% had installed anti virus software;

    —    69% of parents said that their PC is in a public room;

    —    58% said that they supervised their children's Internet usage;

    —    37% had implemented password protection;

    —    29% had installed parental controls from their ISP;

    —    27% are using content control software; and

    —    only 1% of customers stated that they had taken no steps.

  26.  Despite all of this, no set of "technical" protection measures can ever provide complete protection—the "technical" aspect is just one element of the equation. All vulnerable people and children will require education, guidance of a responsible adult and an understanding of what to do in threatening situations.

What, if anything, could be changed in order to help people manage the potential or actual risks of going online?

  27.  It is in the interests of all in this industry to help and educate customers to ensure they and their families have a safe and enjoyable experience when using the Internet. We are always looking to improve the control we can give to customers. The Internet and computers are part of our daily lives. Introducing children safely to the Internet allows them to build confidence and skills from an early age.

  28.  We believe that any initiative to improve on-line safety needs to cover three main aspects:

    —    practical issues—like supervision or location of the PC;

    —    education issues—about bullying, viruses and not giving personal information; and

    —    technical issues—to filter content and limit usage.

  29.  All three aspects have to be addressed in combination to make effective progress and the combination will need to vary according to the age of the user—supervision will be most important for very young children, whereas content filtering is likely to be more relevant for older children and adults.

  30.  We believe that device based controls offer the best solution to filtering content. An Internet connection into a home is often used by multiple computers and by multiple family members. Customers want to be able to offer different levels of filtering to different family members. With device based controls, parents can set a level of protection for each child and can modify these over time. Device controls also protect children when they are mobile if they use a laptop in other locations.

  31.  A large number of software suppliers specialise in providing software to protect customers and their children while on the Internet. There are many packages available; education is needed to help customers use the tools available to them.

  32.  Many websites provide information for parents and children. For example:




    —    ISP's own sites;



    —; and


  33.  All appear to provide good advice for parents on the various actions they need to take, but they all take a slightly different approach. What is missing is an overall campaign that pulls all of the initiatives together.

  34.  We would support an industry wide agreement to use common, non-jargon language to describe and communicate the risks and potential mitigation for customers.

  35.  We believe that all users, particularly parents and children, need to be better educated about the potential risks arising from using new technologies, so that they can gain the benefits of what is available to them and minimise the risks involved. We would support a campaign to raise this important issue. To be effective it needs to have simple messages for all users, although the major target group might be parents and children, and should be backed by Government, schools, parents, police, teachers and experts. The same message should be supported with a website, leaflets, posters etc so that it is consistently seen and remembered.

  36.  A combination of Government-backed education, together with continuing self-regulatory initiatives from industry, seems to us to be the most helpful approach in this area.


  37.  There is no single solution to the issue of online safety. However, a combination of education and technical solutions will provide an environment in which a balanced approach to protection is developed. It is important for all users to maintain a sensible approach to using the technology, recognising the potential pitfalls and managing them in ways that do not have an adverse impact on the enormous learning and inspirational capacity of modern technology.

  38.  We would be pleased to engage in any industry wide initiatives which might help to get across even better the messages, information and education we have provided to date. This might include developing improved general terms to describe and communicate the risks and potential solutions for customers, which are jargon-free.

  39.  In broader terms, BT is already playing its part in industry discussion facilitated by the Broadband Stakeholders Group's Content Information Group to develop a "Good Practice Framework". It provides information which aims to let customers know what we try to do to help them identify the suitability of material for their households and individuals within it.

February 2008

Annexe 1



  1.  BT is committed to providing the best possible protection for its customers and to do this BT not only offers a range of protection in the network but also a wide range of security features provided as part of the email, narrowband and broadband ISP service to UK consumers.


  2.  BT has partnered with Yahoo! to provide industry leading email protection. There are four areas of email protection that BT provides, and these are all included in the standard price of our service.


  3.  Volumes of spam traffic have continued to rise globally and all email customers are at risk of having their email address abused by spammers. Spammers can use computers to guess email addresses (dictionary attacks) and can acquire lists from many sources. Once a spammer has your email address then you will receive large amounts of unwanted emails. To protect BT's customers, BT uses Yahoo! SpamGuard Plus service which filters incoming emails as soon as they arrive at our mail servers. If the email is from a known spammer it is deleted immediately, if the filter thinks it is spam it will deliver it into the customer's spam folder (removing any graphical images first) and auto-delete it after 60 days. This is to enable the customer to check that genuine email has not been sent there by error. The Spam protection also includes the ability for a user to vote on incoming email as either "This is Spam" or "This is not Spam". This personalisation makes the service more effective than other spam filtering services that have no customer interaction. Often what the system considers to be spam may not be spam and vice-versa. This personalisation after a short time ensures that genuine email for each user is detected and spam is blocked.

AddressGuard (Disposable Email Accounts)

  4.  BT provides each email account with up to 500 disposable email addresses in a service called AddressGuard. Spam abuse is often caused by consumers leaving their email address at sites that may misuse this data. AddressGuard solves this problem by providing the user with an email address for each site they leave their email address. This means that they can protect their true email address to trusted friends and family but provide a disposable email address to a company on the Internet. BT routes the incoming email from up to 500 disposable addresses into the customer's email account. The untrusted source doesn't know the customer's true email address and the customer only has to check their one email account. If one or more of these emails starts receiving spam the user can delete their disposable email address and their main email address remains protected.


  5.  Phishing attacks are the next generation of spam and trick customers into thinking that the email they get is from a trusted source (eg a bank or building society). The customer clicks through to a website that is made to look like the bank's and then discloses personal information that can be used to access the customer bank account and empty the contents. BT email uses MarkMonitor, a leading company in real time phishing protection, to filter out phishing emails in exactly the same way as we filter out Spam.


  6.  BT email has Symantec Norton anti-virus protection to ensure that all incoming and outgoing emails that contain an attachment are scanned for viruses. If viruses can be fixed the email can continue but if the virus can't be fixed it is blocked and the originator is warned that they have a virus.


  7.  BT provides Symantec Norton Antivirus and Norton Personal Firewall to all BT Total Broadband Option 2 and 3 customers as part of their broadband service. This service provides market-leading anti-virus and firewall protection at no extra cost to the customer and can run on up to 7 PCs in the home.

  8.  Customers on the entry level broadband service, BT Total Broadband Option 1, and Narrowband customers can purchase the same protection for £3.50 a month (BT NetProtect)


  9.  BT provides 1GB of Digital Vault storage to enable anyone in the UK (whether they are a BT customer or not) to back up their most important content into a secure online digital vault. This service ensures that even if the PC or laptop at home is stolen or the hard disk fails, the most important data is backed-up. Many people copy to hard disks or CDs but these can be lost or destroyed in a fire. BT Digital Vault also enables users to share content with other people and to enable remote access to their data when away from home.

  10.  In addition to the free service BT also offers a premium version for £4.99 a month which includes 20GB of storage and an automated backup application for all computers in the home.


  11.  Spyware and adware are malicious software that can install themselves on your computer, they track your surfing habits and collect personal data that is then sent back to their creators. They can run behind the scenes on your computer, and you might not even know that they are there.

  12.  BT provides Symantec's Norton SpywareScan protection to all narrowband and broadband consumer customers included in each product. This service monitors your PC continuously for any spyware or adware activity and blocks it.


  13.  When surfing the Internet users are often presented with pop-up advertising windows. Not only can this be annoying but it can be offensive or might involve phishing (trying to get personal details to then get access to bank accounts etc). BT provide pop-up ad blocking protection at no extra cost for all narrowband and broadband customers. The service looks for pop-ups and blocks them before the customer can see them.

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