Updates: see below.
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center, the UK's national police/government department dedicated to protecting children, has launched a panic button integrated into Internet Explorer 8, to help children report online abuse.
Today is the UK's Safer Internet Day, and this joint initiative with Microsoft is one of their ways of helping protect children not only in the UK but around the world. The two have been working together for some time - and this is another step in promoting the Report Abuse technology, introducing a single button which rolls out across a number of popular sites with children.
Disclosure: I worked for Microsoft some time ago on child safety measures, and am fully aware of the relationship that Microsoft and CEOP, along with other public sector police and governmental bodies have.
The panic button can be installed either directly from the IE Add-On's site or through a dedicated installation of IE8 which it includes. In the form of a Web Slice, it allows children to hit one dedicated button to report a range of online abuse from bullying to child grooming.
As I have said before, the Internet has created a borderless set of nations where information passes physical borders without customs, excise or immigration and no one dedicated governmental entity can single-handedly fight the online child sex abuse battle. CEOP is a small fish in a large sea of governmental and police organisations working together to combat this illicit market.
Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC's technology reporter, highlights an interesting point though. With Internet Explorer (specifically IE6) receiving quite a bad rap of late, CEOP as a government department seems to be rather eagerly promoting Microsoft's browser.
Jim Killock, Open Rights Group, spoke to Cellan-Jones, saying:
"It's important that CEOP doesn't persuade people to use a single browser, particularly one which has had a history of security lapses causing other threats to home users."
The panic button is not yet available for non-IE users and those using Firefox, Chrome or Safari will have to do without, with no clear plans to develop a similar solution for these browsers.
I asked CEOP to comment on whether they have any specific thoughts on expanding this to other browsers, as well as whether they are officially endorsing Microsoft products as a UK government department - which they seem to be doing so - but have received no word back yet. Updates will be here in due time if/when they get in touch.
Update: CEOP did get in touch. While they worked with Microsoft to develop the Web Slice, but does not officially endorse any specific commercial product. They work closely with a number of organisations with a major impact on the web and the commercial sector, and are working with Google to develop an extension for Chrome and others in future.
Will this panic button make children safer? Will you, as a parent, switch to IE to use this panic button? Have your say.