Perhaps you’ve heard about Microsoft’s WIndows Live new “Family Safety” software, which you can install on your Windows computer, so that your children can safely surf the web without fear of exposure to material that is not family friendly – or ‘family safe’. Apparently in Microsoft’s view this includes competitor Google, although oddly it does not include their own similar search engine, Live.com.
In describing their “Family Safety” service, Microsoft explains that “As a parent, you want to help make your family’s experiences safer and more secure, and you want to provide good guidance. Windows Live Family Safety can help. Windows Live Family Safety is a Web service that’s free to people who use Microsoft Windows XP.”
Mike Rimov, CTO at Centerline Computers in Oregon, recently decided to take Microsoft’s Family Safety for a spin. So Mike installed Family Safety, set it to the lowest level of filtering, and tried to go to the Google site.
As he tells it, what happened next was “oops, it blocks Google! So I logged into the settings and added Google as an exception. Google still wouldn’t come up. Just in case, I turned off the family filter…. voila, Google.”
A Microsoft spokesperson told the Register, “While we don’t have specifics on this user’s experience we do not actively filter the Google home page. General portal pages like MSN, Google.com and Yahoo are included in a custom section marked ‘sites we haven’t categorised’: if that box is left unchecked, then access might be denied.”
Note..”if that box is left unchecked“, which means that Google is ‘blocked’ by default.
In other words, if you DO want access to Google when this package is running, you have to opt in.
By the way, the Microsoft site explains that one of the things you can do with Family Safety installed is “Supervise your kids’ activities from any computer, using Web-based reports that show what your kids are doing online.”
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Which begs the question – if you can do it, can Microsoft as well? It would be interesting to see whether the Family Safety TOS has any loopholes in it that would allow Microsoft to access that data, even if anonymized.