iOS 7 features a web content filter allowing you to block inappropriate web content on your iPads. We show you how to manage the web filter using Apple Configurator.
In iOS 7 you can limit web access based on the content of the web site, by blocking specific URLs, or by allowing access only to specific sites. Each of these options can be applied via either Apple Configurator or wirelessly using an MDM service.
In Apple Configurator the Web Content Filter option is available when editing a configuration profile in the left hand menu.
Limit Adult Content
Selecting this option automatically filters out adult websites based on the content of a page. The filtering works across browsers, so as well as Safari, filtering also works in Chrome.
Unfortunately Apple doesn’t give any information about how content is filtered using this option. We don’t know what keywords are being looked for, or if any URLs are explicitly blocked and on what basis.
The Limit Adult Content option also allows you to enter URLs to whitelist sites in the Permitted URLs box and block sites in the Blacklisted URLs box.
Specific Websites Only
Entering a URL in this window blocks access to all sites except those listed. This option is useful to keep students on task. The setting also creates a bookmark in Safari to all allowed sites for easy access.
How the Web Content Filter Manages URLs
When entering URLs to permit, blacklist, or whitelist sites you should be aware of the following:
- URLs are matched if the exact characters entered appear at the beginning of the URL.
- No domain or IP address resolution is carried out. So, if you blacklist http://www.google.com the site could still be accessible using the IP and vice versa.
- URLs entered need to start with http:// or https://.
- Http and https alternatives should be entered individually. Even if http://www.facebook.com is blacklisted, https://www.facebook.com will still be accessible.
- Wildcard entries do not work.
Web Content Filter and MDM
If your MDM service supports web content filter settings you can apply and update filtering wirelessly. If you apply filtering in this way make sure the user has sufficient incentive not to remove the configuration profile.
Dealing with Multiple Web Content Filter Profiles
It’s possible to have multiple configuration profiles applied to a single iPad which could contain conflicting web filtering settings. This situation is dealt with in the following way:
- Any URL blacklisted in any profile is blocked.
- Whitelisted URLs must appear in the whitelist of all applied profiles to be allowed.
- Permitted URLs must appear in the permitted list of all applied profiles to be allowed.
Can This Replace Your School Web Filtering?
Without more information about how iOS 7 automatic web content filtering works it’s impossible to recommend as a replacement to your school filtering system. But there are some useful features here. The ability to restrict students to a specific list of website via MDM is powerful. Likewise, being able to filter web access on the device is useful for if students are taking an iPad home.
With more technical information from Apple, and more granular control of filtering, centrally manageable systems like this could save schools time and money in future.