Microsoft tests Windows Live parental controls

Microsoft is beta testing a new service that will allow parents to control their children's online activity.

Microsoft is testing a new Web-based service that will allow parents to control their children's online activity and block access to sites that are not appropriate for kids.

Several Microsoft-watcher blogs, such as Liveside.net (http://www.liveside.net) and Neowin.net (http://www.neowin.net/), have reported that a service called Windows Live Family Safety Settings is currently in beta. The service allows parents to monitor, control and filter online activity by creating specific accounts for their children, according to an e-mail invitation to the beta of the service posted on Neowin.net.

Using the service, parents can create settings so certain PC accounts will not have access to sites featuring content that pertains to subjects like alcohol, bomb making or pornography, according to a screen shot of the new service posted by Liveside.net. They also can create content filters and view activity reports of where their children have been online.

In a statement through its public relations firm Waggener Edstrom on Thursday, Microsoft confirmed that Family Safety Settings is in "early testing," but declined to comment further on when it might be generally available.

Microsoft introduced Windows Live as one of a set of Web-based services the company plans to offer in an effort to compete with companies such as Google and Yahoo, which use the Internet as a delivery platform for hosted services. Windows Live, available at http://live.com, allows users to aggregate content and services on a customized home page. Both Windows Live and a small-business Web-site hosting service, Office Live, are in beta now.

Microsoft also is using the brand "Windows Live" for other offerings that are part of its larger Web-based services strategy. The company plans to relaunch MSN Search as Windows Live Search soon, and the next generation of MSN Messenger will be called Windows Live Messenger.

The Windows Live Family Safety Settings service is similar to a comparable feature that will be a part of Windows Vista, which Microsoft has demonstrated publicly. Bolstering security has been a major design goal for Vista, and Microsoft already has already announced a host of new security features that will be a part of the OS. In addition to the new parental controls, Microsoft also will offer a new antiphishing tool in Internet Explorer 7, the browser included in Vista, to help protect users from e-mail scams.

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