World's First public WiFi accreditation scheme launches in the UK

Posted on 18 July 2014

The UK’s first 'Friendly WiFi' scheme launched yesterday to help children and young people stay safe online when logged into public WiFi services.

The scheme, which uses filters to help prevent children and young people who use public WiFi from accessing pornographic and inappropriate material, will inform parents which shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels, public transport and tourist attractions are providing filtered WiFi.  All participating businesses will display the associated ‘Friendly WiFi' logo so parents and young people are able to make informed decisions about where they log onto public WiFi.

The launch of the 'Friendly WiFi' scheme comes after Childnet, UKCCIS and the Internet Watch Foundation raised concerns about children and young people being able to view and access inappropriate material when using public WiFi.

In response to this, a commitment was made by the UK’s six main WiFi providers (02, Sky, Virgin, EE, Arqiva, Nomad) to Prime Minister; David Cameron that a minimum level of filtering would be placed across all public WiFi services.  The Registered Digital Institute (RDI) have developed the scheme in partnership with the Government, The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) and the UK’s main WiFi providers.

In support of the scheme Minister Ed Vaizey said:

“The public Wi-Fi offered in cafes, restaurants, shops and attractions across the UK means that it has never been so easy for children and young people to connect to the internet when outside of the home.  As a result, the continued safeguarding of children and young people online must become a priority for UK businesses offering the use of their Wi-Fi services.”

He added; “The new ‘Friendly WiFi’ scheme allows parents and children to make an informed choice about where they use public WiFi. Businesses signed up to the scheme can display the new WiFi logo to clearly show that they are part of the scheme and that their WiFi provision has been independently verified and access to inappropriate material has been blocked.”

We are proud at Childnet to support such a scheme.  As CEO, Will Gardner said:

“Childnet see the ‘Friendly WiFi’ scheme is a great opportunity for retailers and others reassure the public, particularly parents that they are taking their responsibility of providing internet access seriously. We believe it is a real selling point for such providers to show they are providing such a service. There has been a great deal of work done to provide parents and carers with the choice to implement home Wi-Fi filtering at home by the Internet Service Providers, and all the mobile operators also take steps in restricting content of under 18s. Public Wi-Fi is an important and growing part of this provision, and to extend these provisions to this environment is a logical and helpful step forward to providing a consistent approach to protecting children from adult content.”

A number of organisations have already expressed their support for the 'Friendly WiFi' scheme including the NSPCC and the partners within the UK Safer Internet Centre. Tesco, a scheme stakeholder have stated that their customers will see the ‘Friendly WiFi’ logo displayed when they log-in to use the free public Wi-Fi, offered both in store and in Tesco coffee shops. Samsung and Starbucks have also signed up to be members of the scheme.

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