Microsoft's much-maligned operating system Vista has proven the third most effective PC tool available to parents to filter out inappropriate web content for children, according to tests by the European Commission.
But none of the 26 products tested by the EC achieved a perfect score [pdf] when it came to filter capabilities.
All the tools tested by the Commission demonstrated an alarming underblocking rate – that is, the amount of harmful content missed by the filter – of greater than 20 percent.
Some of the tools tested were also able to be bypassed or uninstalled by users.
A common security weakness identified in the tools was allowing access to a prohibited page through translation sites or Google cache.
The three highest scoring products in the tests, on a scale of zero to four, were: Vise (3.5), CyberSieve (3.4) and Windows Vista (3.2).
All tools allowed parents the "possibility to block content according to categories based on topics", and almost 85 percent of the tools enabled parents to block access to certain websites.
However, the tested products were generally less efficient at filtering out social networking sites or blogs.
In addition, only a few products on the market are able to filter web content accessed via mobile phones or game consoles, at a time when one child out of four in Europe goes online in this fashion.
About 80 percent of the products tested offered parents at least a basic report on a child's web activity (visited websites or violations). Some also provided specific alerts with violations and more detailed reports.
Other key findings:
- Most tools provide a complete set of customisation functionalities (topic, URL and black/whitelists);
- Most tools enabled parents to create and manage different profiles for users with different needs;
- Most tools could block web-based streaming provided by YouTube, if not with a specific option then at least by adding the site to a blacklist;
- Many tools could block MSN Messenger but less than a half were able to block Skype.
- Filtering for contacts was still a rare capability.