For your eyes only: taking an active approach to controlling 3G content

Ouri Azoulay considers the plight of operators juggling a voracious consumer appetite for 3G Web content with the need to protect users from the prolific growth in inappropriate URLs …

What’s coming to your mobile screen? The simple answer: any type of content that can be found on the web. As operators make alliances to offer subscribers wider content, they also face new challenges.

Aside from revenue generation and building a user base, a key concern is filtering and control of mobile web access, especially access to adult content. Legal liability, security and child protection are just a few of the issues that mobile operators need to address.
Given that over 90% of 15-24 year olds in the UK currently own a mobile, operators need to consider seriously the consequences of children and teenagers being exposed to adult content.

As operators have spent hundreds of millions building their brands around family, friends and business productivity, they will not want to risk the brands with adult content.

So how do networks and emerging MVNOs deliver effective, easy-to-use access and content controls that satisfy these concerns, while enabling service delivery to the right audience profile? Or, to put it another way, how can they be sure that only the right hands can access the right services?

Reputable mobile service providers will need to make content filtering software a key part of their package.

Parents are looking to operators for help, and by being responsive to these concerns and providing effective content controls, operators can protect their brand value. Content controls can support ARPU growth by providing new targeted and customised solutions that meet subscriber preferences.

These are the key steps in delivering dynamic content control for mobiles.
The foundation of content control is to deploy advanced, dynamic content classification and filtering. Operators and subscribers demanding content control are best served with a real-time, on-the-fly approach.

Solutions which rely on large, static URL databases cannot keep up because they demand intensive monitoring and regular updating. Estimates suggest that the dynamic, unsearchable content on the web is 400 times larger than that available on the ‘surface’ or searchable web.

Active content recognition can read web content on the fly, and allow or block it according to established policies. This can be supported by filters such as industry-standard content identification tagging, and a small database of known, inappropriate web addresses. This also enables multilingual filtering for international requirements.

The active approach gives reassurance that all URLs requested by users are classified and filtered, without blocking legitimate sites. A further benefit is that active solutions typically give a very small footprint within the mobile network, making it easier to deploy and needing less maintenance and updating.

Without effective, secure content classification and filtering, subscriber confidence and the costs associated with these services will be difficult for operators to sustain.

The classification and filtering solution can then be integrated into further measures such as access and usage management by age verification. Subscriber profiling to enable tailoring of content packages is a further option for operators to consider.

Cyber sentinels
This approach has been adopted by a number of mobile operators across the US to ensure increased access to 3G content while protecting users from inappropriate content.
bcgi evaluated PureSight’s ACR technology and decided to incorporate it onto its Mobile Guardian. The PureSight component of Mobile Guardian enables management of subscriber access to restricted content.

Such an approach is enabling mobile operators to remain competitive by continuing to offer the latest, edgy 3G content, while simultaneously delivering a bullet-proof solution for keeping it out of children’s hands.

A flexible, end-to-end solution is also critical in maintaining an operator’s ability to assess and comply with evolving community, industry and regulatory content standards.

As the mobile handset becomes the revenue battleground for operators, they also have to be careful not to fight a dirty war by allowing subscribers access to inappropriate content. Deploying the right solution for classifying and content will be key to operators getting the upper hand.

Ouri Azoulay is General Manager of content filtering specialist PureSight.

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