In Loco Parentis anti-grooming software

February 7, 2007

It seems kind of strange that after writing about Crisp Thinking, who have taken a network-based approach to detecting possible predatory paedophile discussions in chat rooms, I noticed xGATE who have come up with a hardware firewall solution aimed at solving the same problem. Now blow me down, along comes In Loco Parentis who produce anti-grooming PC software.

Interestingly, the software has been developed on behalf of a charity together with an ethical backer. Phoenix Survivors was established by Shy Keenan and Sara Payne. Phoenix Survivors is a completely independent web based voluntary support group set up for, and by, the victims of child sexual abuse and the families of children murdered by child molesters.

To quote the In Loco Parentis web site:

In Loco Parentis is an interactive system which allows you to:

  • See which websites your child has visited, allowing you to check the website’s suitability and block if necessary
  • Build a personalised library of words that you do not want your child to use or see online (watch words).
  • Monitor their online behaviour and set actions to be taken in the event that good conduct rules are broken
  • Be alerted by email to violations of the rules you have set up
  • Encourage respect between users with a bad language alert and lock out feature

In Locus Parentis provide a list of acronyms that could be used as part of a grooming discussion:

ASL Age, Sex, Location
BF/GF Boyfriend, Girlfriend
BRB Be Right Back
CD9 Code 9— means parents are around
GNOC Get Naked On Cam (webcam)
G2G Got To Go
IDK I Don’t Know
LMIRL Let’s Meet In Real Life
101 Laugh Out Loud
MorF Male or Female
MOS Mum Over Shoulder
NIFOC Naked In Front Of Computer
Noob When someone cannot use a computer very well
NMU Not Much, You?
P911 Parents Emergency
PAW Parents Are Watching
PIR Parents In Room
POS Parents Over Shoulder
PRON Porn
PRW Parents are Watching
S2R Send to Receive (this relates to pictures)
TDTM Talk Dirty To Me
W/E Whatever
Warez pirated software

The software runs on the PC itself, unlike Crisp and xGATE. It contains a ‘watchword’ dictionary’ – like xGATE – that allows parents to be alerted to inappropriate language or behaviour. These words are divided into the categories of swearing, bullying, sex and grooming for easy access and administration. Parents are provided with search and blocking options.

The watchword dictionary

I wonder whether just being alerted by email to violations of the rules is suffcient. As we know, email is not a real-time service and is not much use in multi-PC homes where parents may be working, otherwise engaged or sleeping while their children are in chat rooms. xGATE’s SMS alerting seems far more sophisticated and usable.

An article in the Sun newspaper proivides an overview.

Anyway, we now have a network, firewall and a software solution for detecting chat room grooming and it will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the market.

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XGate: Protect your child’s on-line experience

February 5, 2007

Having only recently posted a short review of Crisp Thinking, who have taken a network-based approach to detecting possible predatory paedophile discussions in chatrooms, I was interesting in seeing another UK company launching a product in the this product sector – xGATE a division of Global Security One. Like Crisp, ,hey are also based in the north of England, Manchester to be precise.

The xGate is a full blown domestic firewall with additional features that enable parents to monitor, if they so wish, their child’s chat room discussions. To quote their web site:

XGate is the world’s first internet security device that is specifically designed to protect your child’s on-line experience. Even when you are not sat beside them!

  • Monitor your child’s chat room activities even when you are not there.
  • Receive a mobile phone SMS message or an email every time your child enters an unauthorised chat room.
  • Monitor your child’s chat room conversations from your mobile phone or by email.
  • Terminate your child’s chat room conversation immediately from your mobile phone or email if you detect a danger.
  • Prevent grooming by paedophiles – keep your children safe!

xGate take what could be considered to be a more conventional approach by integrating this capabilility into a small box that sits between household computers and the Internet.

It seems to be based on word detection and continuously monitors chatroom conversations looking for selected words that you have entered. I would assume xBox pre-populate the word list for you as this is key for successful detection. Also, can it detect only individual words or can you identify combinations of words which I would have thought to be quite important?

When it finds one, parents will immediately receive an SMS or email to alert to the issue and you can:

a) Terminate and block session
b) Shut down the computer
c) Continue monitoring the chat room conversation
d) De-activate the chat room senso

I do like the pro-active alerting mechanism as it will certainly gain your attention – unless your ‘phone is off!

Just after posting this I came across newly launched anti-grooming software from In Loco Parentis


Crisp Thinking: a child protection technology

January 29, 2007

When I heard the short presentation from Adam Hildreth of Crisp Thinking at Library House’s MediaTech 2.006 event held at the iMax theatre before Christmas, there was something that really intrigued me about what they were up to.

They were hosted at the event by David Rowe who runs Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team and hosts their Startup Zone.

In fact there were three things that I found interesting (a) The service they offer seemed, to me at least, very innovative that focused on an industry pain not being addressed in a significant way by other companies (b) Their approach to solving the problem from a network and technology perspective seemed remarkably different, and (c) their CEO is only 21! You don’t come across this combination too often in my experience.

What do they do?

Crisp have developed a child protection gateway (CPG) that has been designed to sit in an ISP network to protect children and teenagers from the specific threat of online-grooming and cyber-bullying. The CPG acts as the gateway for the traffic from protected households. Because all of the child protection components actually sit in the network layer, not on the client, the Crisp solution could offer unrivalled levels of protection. It is extremely hard for even a “well tuned” teenager to circumvent their network level controls.

The core of the CPG is Crisp’s Anti-Grooming Engine (AGE™). AGE™ takes a completely different approach to the traditional market approach for Parental Controls. It focuses on protecting children from external threats, rather than on moderating what children can and cannot do on the net. The net result provides an experience which is positive for both Parents and Children.

How do they do it?

Clearly, CPG type functionality could be installed in a domestic environment attached to DSL router to intercept traffiic but Crisp’s business model calls for them to work with ISP’s and embed their CPGs in the ISP’s network.

Although working with carriers / ISPs is always a challenge, it strikes me that Crisp’s technology would be well received as it provided a service that could prove to be very popular with parents. Crisp describe it thus:

“Offering controls within a network that an ISP can ‘switch on’ drives one of the key aspects of an ISP’s revenue model; value added services. With child protection being one of the few mass-market value added services this becomes particularly important in the current broadband ‘price war’.

Network-level protection also gives an ISP huge brand differentiation within the market; a consumer’s perception is immediately changed if their ISP is actually pro-actively protecting their family.”

The people:

Crisp is a young company and is actually Adam’s second start-up, even though he is only 21. Although he might be mightily embarrassed by this, when he was 18 he came number 4 in the RichList 2020 drawn up by the Royal Bank of Scotland. The Internet can be a horror sometimes!

Adam has put together a strong management team and has attracted Andrew Burke to be their Chairman. As Andrew was earlier BT’s CEO, BT Entertainment, I guess Adam has had many meetings with BT at Adastral Park!

Comment:

This certainly seems to be a company that has come with some cute technology and is taking an innovate, but challenging, approach to market. They are certainly addressing a major industry pain and if they are successful with thier trials I would expect a significant take up by the ISP community both small and large.

And, if you want to beat a path the Adam’s door, book your train seat because as they are based in Leeds in Northern England.

Postnote: Coincidentally, I saw that MySpace could be offering child monitoring software.

In January 2006, xBOX was launched – a firewall-based solution.
In February 2006, I came across newly launched anti-grooming software from In Loco Parentis