Chat room safety device has nothing to do with chat rooms

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This item is all over the "intellectual property and inventions" aggregate feed this morning.  I chose the Scotsman.com coverage because it has a little more detail than others.  The story is that a beautician in the UK has invented a "chat room safety device" and won an award for it.  Except...  the "chat room safety device" has nothing whatsoever to do with "chat rooms", and very little to do with "safety".

It's actually a telephone-number blocking device.  You plug it into your phone socket and it prevents other devices from calling a configurable list of phone numbers.  There's some hint that it may also act as a DSL filter (although filters to do that are already provided free by all DSL service providers).  I guess if you program it for the number of your dialup ISP, it will prevent users from going onto the Net and accessing "chat rooms", but simply cancelling your ISP account would have a similar effect.  From a networking point of view, it's pretty much the same as the "block all outgoing calls" option it's designed to replace - denying young people network access entirely is, I suppose, a kind of filtering, but it's the most blunt and indiscriminate kind possible.

Of course, it is entirely possible that the news coverage is inaccurate and the actual device is more useful than the one described.

I was also amused by the tale of little Stephanie, who "came home from school one day and told [her mother] that she had been on a chat room and she was not very comfortable with the conversations on line[.]" If she's uncomfortable, why doesn't she just log off?  This kind of filter only seems applicable when she willingly participates in conversations that her mother doesn't want her to participate in.  It would be more accurate for the mother to say "I was not very comfortable with the private conversations I eavesdropped on."

[Chat room safety device has nothing to do with chat rooms]

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