Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced today that it has begun testing new parental control features for its Chrome web browser and Chrome OS laptops that allow easy blocking of content and services. Whether this announcement and testing was already on the way or simply a response to news that Chrome was essentially giving away your personal information is anyone's guess. It was only 12 days ago that I and others reported on this security flaw and begs the question of coincidence.
Google unveils Supervised Users beta
Today, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) unveiled a beta version of "supervised users" which allows parents to either block specific sites or give their kids access to a list of "whitelisted" sites which gives parents very specific, or granular control.
"To help those who may need some guidance browsing the web, we’re kicking off a beta channel preview of a new feature called supervised users," said Pam Greene, a software engineer for Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), in a blog post.
Google Chrome's market share
Google Chrome holds 40.8% of the browser market share of desktop and laptop computers according to data collected by StatCounter in September, significantly larger than the 28.56% market share for Internet Explorer and Firefox's 18.36%. Beyond this, the browser is gaining in popularity and is the foundation of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)'s Chromebook OS. The beta version allows parents to view their child's browsing history on Windows, OS X and Linux. (Though any child that is using Linux should really be allowed to do whatever they wish in a quest for knowledge). I can't help but feel that kids using Linux are acting more as developers than porn hounds.
Once set up, "you’ll be able to visit chrome.com/manage to review a history of web pages [your son] has visited, determine sites that you want to allow or block, and manage permissions for any blocked websites he has requested to view," Greene explained.
The beta version is quite clever. If children using Chrome with the new controls try to access a site they will be denied entry. However, parents will be given a list of sites that their children tried to access and will be able to manually approve them after their child has finished their session.
This is of course perfect if a child is doing homework or school-assigned research on pornography or pipe bomb making.
Stephen Balkam on parental control
"Chromebooks with this kind of potential for parental internet control, as well as Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)'s Kindle with its family settings, are a tremendous development," said Stephen Balkam, chief executive of Family Online Safety Institute.
"We are very encouraged by this kind of general development, particularly at a time when we're now seeing tablets for two-year-olds, the ability to restrict internet access for the young and shift to a more monitored environment as they grow older is incredibly important," Balkam explained.
The latter half of that sentence made me question whether Mr. Balkam has ever worked for the NSA. As of this writing I've yet to receive an answer from either Mr. Balkham or the National Security Agency.