Family and Internet safety advocates have lobbied long and hard to government regulators and Internet service and content providers for stronger measures and controls over the types of content viewable by children when online. And based on recent reports, some ISPs have responded in a favorable way, by implementing services that place automatic blocks on "high risk" websites including those that feature nudity or sexual content or are related to drugs, alcohol or tobacco, among others. Furthermore, users seem to be taking advantage of these services rather than opting out of them, creating safer Internet environments in their homes, while Internet providers reap the benefits of high scores for customer satisfaction and the potential for long-term revenue growth. A true win-win!
Although there are a number of ways for ISPs to offer parental controls, Recursive DNS, paired with an intelligent high-performance policy engine, is an effective and scalable technique that has gained favor with several of them.
The Akamai Recursive DNS solution that can be used in parental controls applications is called AnswerX Name Controls. Name Controls is a web application that leverages the Akamai recursive resolver, as well as two key AnswerX elements - its high performance Policy Engine and Reputation Knowledge Server (RKS) - to allow subscribers to proactively block, restrict or allow certain categories of web content. With Name Controls, the primary subscriber can assign "ratings," similar to movie ratings, to certain categories of web content and then determine when filters associated with those ratings are applied and to which household members. Those preferences are then stored in the AnswerX Policy Engine and simultaneously within the RKS mapped to categories assigned to given websites. When a user tries to visit a blocked or restricted website, the associated DNS query results in the user's browser being redirected to a web page that informs the user that the site is restricted and offers a series of choices, which may include visiting a more appropriate site, reporting the site as inappropriate or entering a PIN to override the policy and access the site. "High risk" websites are categorically blocked by default unless the primary subscriber logs into the application to "opt out" of the defaults by changing the set of preferences for that household.
That such a high percentage of subscribers would choose to retain the default parental controls settings rather than "opt out," indicates that many parents are effectively protecting their children from potentially harmful content. Those interested in peeking "under the hood" to understand how it can be done will likely want to visit Akamai's website to learn more about AnswerX Name Controls.
Jonathan Zarkower is senior manager of product marketing for Carrier Products at Akamai.