Cameron's porn filter "controlled by Huawei", BBC claims

The BBC has claimed that the porn filter David Cameron wants to protect our children is presided over by Chinese firm Huawei.

The web porn filter that David Cameron wants to make mandatory is controlled by Chinese mobile company Huawei, the BBC claims. In the past, Huawei has had questions raised over its links with the Chinese government.

Huawei has denied the claim, saying it doesn't "run" TalkTalk's Homesafe, but that the system is "supported by Huawei". And the company has always denied claims that it has close ties to the Chinese government. I've contacted Huawei for comment, and will update this story if I hear back.

According to the BBC, UK-based Huawei employees can decide which sites Homesafe blocks. Huawei helped build the infrastructure for Homesafe, which has been in use since 2011.

At the moment, TalkTalk subscribers choose which type of sites they want to filter out, like porn or gambling. The system then uses a blacklist of over 65 million sites to make sure they don't see the stuff they don't want to. It's automated, but TalkTalk and Huawei can add or remove sites as they see fit, the BBC says. And seeing as David Cameron wants this system to be mandatory before the end of the year (saying TalkTalk had shown "great leadership" in promoting the filter), I think we can assume it won't change too much from its present form.

A TalkTalk spokesperson told me in an email that TalkTalk owns the lists of blocked URLs, but that Huawei "assist with maintenance of the lists." The full statement reads: "The BBC story is a little odd as this was extensively reported in 2010 ahead of the HomeSafe launch, there's nothing 'new' in the article. The list of URLs sits within the TalkTalk network and is owned by TalkTalk. Huawei assist with maintenance of the lists. There is a full Q&A on the HomeSafe page at www.TalkTalk.co.uk explaining how it works in detail."

Given David Cameron's enthusiasm for TalkTalk's filter, and his recent moves to block off vast swathes of the Internet unless we opt in, I'd say Huawei's involvement is worth highlighting.

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, a Huawei spokesperson said the filter was no different to others currently in use. "The technology is an industry standard URL-categorising solution which gives telecoms operators control over the service they offer to their customers," they said.

"The solution in turn gives their customers choice and control over of [sic] which categories of website can be accessed through their broadband service.

"The system is similar to other solutions in the market and is based on key word categorisiation; URLs are added under instruction from the customer."

What do you think of Cameron's plans? Are they workable? Or has he not really thought this one through? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.

Update 29 July: Huawei has sent us the following statement.

"Huawei welcomes the statement from the UK Government in response to the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report published in June 2013. Huawei notes that the UK Government response to the report which states: “Our work with Huawei and their UK customers gives us confidence that the networks in the UK that use Huawei equipment are operated to a high standard of security and integrity”. Huawei supports the decision that the National Security Advisor should review the Cyber Security Evaluation Centre."

"Huawei shares the same goal as the UK government and the ISC in raising the standards of cyber security in the UK and ensuring that network technology benefits UK consumers. Huawei is open to new ideas and ways of working to improve cyber security."

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About the author

    Joe has been writing about consumer tech for nearly seven years now, but his liking for all things shiny goes back to the Gameboy he received aged eight (and that he still plays on at family gatherings, much to the annoyance of his parents). His pride and joy is an Infocus projector, whose 80-inch picture elevates movie nights to a whole new level.

     

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