Google Strengthens SafeSearch Parental Filter

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Google's SafeSearch screens for sites that contain explicit sexual content, both images and text, and deletes them from search results. Beginning Wednesday, SafeSearch will allow parents to “lock” the settings they are able to set, thus providing a more effective, though by no means foolproof, method of controlling search results for their children and themselves.  

“Today we're launching a feature that lets you lock your SafeSearch setting to the Strict level of filtering,” product manager Pete Lidwell and engineer Aaron Arcos wrote in a Google blog post. “When you lock SafeSearch, two things will change. First, you'll need to enter your password to change the setting. Second, the Google search results page will be visibly different to indicate that SafeSearch is locked.”

The image, which is intended to be visible from across the room, is of four large, brightly colored balls. If they are not visible on the screen, something is wrong. According to Larry Magid of CNET, there are a few ways to bypass the settings, either on purpose or unwittingly.

“The [SafeSearch] settings, which place a cookie on the machine, must be configured for each browser the child uses,” Magid wrote. “If you set them only for Internet Explorer, for example, they won't restrict access from Firefox, Chrome or other browsers. Also, according to a Google representative, the child can get around the settings by using the private browsing feature that is now built into the latest versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome. So, while this will keep kids from accidentally using Google for inappropriate searches, it will not deter tech-savvy kids who are determined to bypass the filters.”

SafeSearch settings are:

Moderate filtering, which excludes most explicit images from Google Image Search results but doesn't filter ordinary web search results. This is the default SafeSearch setting; users will receive moderate filtering unless they change it.

Strict filtering applies SafeSearch filtering to all search results (both image search and ordinary web search).

No filtering turns off SafeSearch filtering completely.

For more information about Google SafeSearch, visit here.