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Security

Sky Broadband to start filtering adult content by default

Unless you opt out, Sky will start automatically blocking material deemed inappropriate for youngsters as soon as this month.

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Sky will turn on its Broadband Shield service for everyone, unless you say no. Screenshot by Luke Westaway/CNET

Sky Broadband customers take note --Sky will shortly start blocking adult content by default, unless you opt out.

The broadcasting behemoth has had a web filter, dubbed Sky Broadband Shield, on offer for some time. "What we're doing now," explains Sky's Lyssa McGowan in a blog post, "is simply making sure that the automatic position of Sky Broadband Shield is the safest one for all - that's 'on', unless customers choose otherwise."

Sky's system offers different settings (PG, 13, 18 and custom), and also features a watershed option that changes your settings automatically with the time of day. Internet service providers including BT and Sky have been asking their customers to say yes or no to adult content for some time now, but Sky's new setup will see its filter automatically turned on, unless you say no, or have already said no to filtering in the past.

Sky says it'll be emailing customers this month who haven't chosen to either enable or disable Broadband Shield, nudging them towards making a decision. Unless you've requested otherwise, Sky will eventually simply turn it on, at which point you'll have to log in and manually turn Broadband Shield off if you want to navigate to any online material that Sky's system deems unsuitable for young minds.

The introduction of on-by-default online filtering -- which UK Prime Minister David Cameron demanded be made mandatory in 2013 -- has proved controversial. Last year a senior member of the Liberal Democrats said that such filters created a . In December of 2013 a UK study found that porn filters were blocking sex education sites, but not all actual pornography.

"This is very alarming," Jim Killock of Open Rights Group told CNET. "Censorship should never be turned on by default. Filtering blocks all kinds of useful and important websites and users should understand what it is before it is applied."

Sky says that Broadband Shield doesn't give the company access to what you're doing online, so your privacy is protected.

"It's better for people to make their own choice," McGowan writes on Sky's blog, "but until they do, we believe this process to be the safest one. Meanwhile we can ensure that they're protected from phishing, malware and sites unsuitable for young children."

BT has adult content filters switched on as default for new customers, but told CNET, "Although new customers will find that the controls are pre-selected as 'on', BT does not oblige anyone to activate parental controls, as we believe they should make an active choice about this issue. Customers who choose parental controls are taken through a quick activation process in which they can personalise settings to suit their family's needs.

"BT takes the issue of online safety extremely seriously. We are currently sending our existing broadband customers a browser message as part of our efforts to ensure all customers make an active choice about whether or not they want to set up free parental controls," the telecoms giant said.