Meet Circle. Circle is a new take on the age old parental controls for your home’s internet connection. Circle is a small box that joins your home wireless network or that plus into your home’s wired network and becomes the enforcer for all of your traffic.
Circle does not replace your home router. Circle joins your internal network and then begins to work it’s magic. Circle actually uses an ARP poisoning technique to assume the function of your default route on the network, thereby controlling all of the traffic flow while enforcing the policies you’ve setup for your devices. ARP poisoning sounds dangerous and when employed as a hacking technique, it is definitely not a good thing, but Circle makes uses of this hacking technique for good.
Circle boasts four major features:
- Time Limits
Using the Circle app on your mobile phone, you setup the profiles for your family members. Each profile has a policy of what sites and content are allowed (Filtering), how much time can be spent online (Time Limits) and Bedtime enforcement. The Insights for each profile provide a list of time spent, where the family member has visited, a traffic history and list of sites that have been filtered. If a legitimate site is being blocked, you may allow it for the profile in the app also. Oh, and need to put a family member on restriction, you may pause their Internet access and stop them from getting anywhere immediately.
All of the devices found on your network are assigned to a profile and for any new or unassigned devices, these go automatically in a Home profile. Devices can also be set to unmanaged where their traffic is not filtered at all – great for printers and network gear like WiFi access points. Devices can move from person to person by reassigning them by the app – which is great for shared tablets. The app sends notifications when new devices join your network to alert you and allow you to assign them appropriately.
When you have a device or service watching and logging your Internet traffic, privacy becomes a really big concern. The makers of Circle tell buyers that all the data is stored directly on the device and is not shared with any third parties, including Disney – whose execs liked the idea so much after finding it so much that they forged a co-branding deal that does push Disney content via the MyCircle portals.
A Full Review
My Circle arrived this past week – it was on a 3 week backorder when I placed my order in December. It was setup and configured this past weekend and so its too early to say how it works and what the potential gotchas are — but I will be posting a full review online after I use it with my family for a few weeks.
Disclaimer: My Circle device was purchased and paid for out of pocket and this is not a paid endorsement or review for Circle.