There’s a new home networking device that can set limits on your family’s online habits using methods typically associated with malicious hackers. Circle with Disney is a $99 box that hooks up to your Wi-Fi router and then monitors the activity of every device connected to your home network.
Circle began life as a failed Kickstarter project, but a partnership between Circle Media and Disney finally brought the device to fruition.
The story behind the story: Circle uses a method known as ARP spoofing—most often associated with man-in-the-middle attacks—to inspect packets as they transit between a device and the network. The box will then allow or refuse that connection to continue based on the limits the parent sets. That may make some parents uncomfortable with how deep this Internet control goes.
Putting the bad guys’ tools to good use
Despite its intense monitoring of home Internet activity, Circle Media founder Jelani Memory told Wired your family’s browsing history is not being stashed in the cloud and the company also isn’t doing any data mining.
The idea behind Circle is not to spy on your family’s online activity. Instead the goal is to set limits on what your children can access online, when they can access it, and for how long. Circle with Disney allows a parent to associate devices on a home network with individual family members. Then they can decide how long that person or device can be online and what services can be accessed.
If Johnny spends too much time on Facebook, for example, you could limit his access to one hour a day and Circle will monitor that time across all Johnny’s devices. Circle offers preset filters to refuse access to certain parts of the web based on a child’s age. It can also block ads for specific family members, which could be a great benefit for protecting the easily impressionable from marketing targeted towards them.
Circle is able to monitor pretty much any device connected to your home network including laptops, tablets, smart TVs, and game consoles. Smartphones will work too, but if your child has mobile data access Circle can’t do much for now—although plans are apparently afoot to change that.
The control panel for all this filtering happens via an iOS app called Circle Home where you can set individual profile settings, and filter apps by name, category, or device platform. You can also set bedtimes and awake times for devices or people to prevent late night chats or gaming sessions. There’s also the extreme ability of manually cutting off Internet access for a certain device, person, or the entire household.
Circle aims to brings its app to Android at some point in 2016, but the company isn’t making any promises just yet.
As a bonus, thanks to Circle’s partnership with Disney device owners also get access to a curated collection of Disney content, including videos and music.
Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn't like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he's not covering the news he's working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.