NEW YORK--Verizon Communications plans soon to offer online parental controls for free to all its broadband customers in an ongoing effort to keep kids safe on the Net.
The free new perks were announced Tuesday by CEO Ivan Seidenberg during a lunch at WiredSafety's Stop Cyberbullying Conference at Pace University in New York. Seidenberg spoke in front of an audience filled with young people, parents, educators, and government officials, who all gathered for the daylong conference on cyberbullying.
Specifically, Verizon plans to offer parents the ability to block their children from viewing selected content. The company is also offering application filters so parents can limit access to certain applications. And Verizon is giving parents the ability to designate specific time periods when the Internet or certain functions can and cannot be used.
"We know that people will only fully utilize broadband networks if they trust that their personal information will remain private, and that parents will not feel comfortable with their children's embrace of technology unless they know their children are safe," Seidenberg said. "Verizon has tried to stay ahead of the curve on both fronts, and that's why we've decided to make even more tools available to our customers for free."
Parry Aftab, founder of WiredSafety.org, praised Verizon and Seidenberg, in particular, for his work in protecting children online. The organization even honored him with a special Internet Superhero award.
"Verizon has a long history of getting behind the issues," she said. "Not just the issues that are good for the bottom line, but issues that are good for consumers generally."
Seidenberg said that all companies involved in the Internet have some responsibility to ensure that people using their services are safe.
"We think of it as part of our corporate responsibility," he said in a conversation after the lunch. "And we feel that it's important for Verizon to be part of the dialog."
Seidenberg also touched on efforts the company is making to ensure privacy and safety for subscribers of its Verizon Wireless service. He acknowledged concerns surrounding the use of location-based services, which use satellite GPS chipsets embedded in phones to track subscribers.
Verizon offers a service that allows parents to keep track of their kids. It also recently startedthat provides a friend-tracking application that alerts people when their buddies are nearby.
Seidenberg said the company has gone to great lengths to ensure that sensitive location information isn't abused. In addition to giving subscribers the ability to turn on and off the tracking services, he said that Verizon has also developed a multitiered security and authentication system to make sure that subscribers are sharing location information only with people they trust and know.
"Privacy is a priority for Verizon," he said. "And we work really hard to maintain customer trust."