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Skype Denies Surveillance Charges

Skype Denies Surveillance Charges

Privacy experts have been speculating for months about possible changes to Skype that would make it easier for police surveillance to occur. Skype, which Microsoft bought last year, denies such claims, stating that any changes made to the chat services were to improve user reliability.

The Skype blog has firmly denied that stored messages will be used specifically as a surveillance tactic to make it easier for officials to monitor activity. Skype officials also stated that they will hand over information to officials only when it is necessary:

The move to supernodes was not intended to facilitate greater law enforcement access to our users’ communications. Skype has had a team of Skype employees to respond to legal demands and requests from law enforcement since 2005. While we are focused on building the best possible products and experiences for our users, we also fundamentally believe that making a great product experience also means we must act responsibly and make it safe for everyone to use. Our position has always been that when a law enforcement entity follows the appropriate procedures, we respond where legally required and technically feasible.

The Washington Post points out that many law enforcement officials were unhappy with the encryption of Skype services over the years, which made it difficult to track down communications between suspects, who often used the technology to avoid surveillance.

Critics of the change remain wary of Skype’s intentions after the change in platforms. A Washington Post article highlighted that many critics worry that the precedent set by changes in Skype’s applications, such as the current storage of instant messages for 30 days, will encourage more surveillance. As Lauren Weinstein was quoted in the Post’s piece:

The issue is, to what extent are our communications being purpose-built to make surveillance easy? When you make it easy to do, law enforcement is going to want to use it more and more. If you build it, they will come.

The BBC points out that many critics of internet surveillance feel wary about the intentions of Microsoft.  The company applied for a US patent for a technology that could silently record Skype-like conversations long before they bought Skype, sparking some speculation that surveillance was always a top priority for the media giant.

Communication and social media technologies have been at the forefront of legal battles in recent years. Earlier this month, a Supreme Court judge ruled that deleted Twitter posts from an Occupy Wall Street demonstrator had to be handed over to authorities, sparking debates about the privacy of Twitter users and deleted web history.

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Photo Credit: Skype

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38 comments

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2:33AM PDT on Jun 21, 2013

Thanks for article - keeping us aware and keeping them aware that we aware.

9:52AM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

Never tried it, but everything is open to Big Brother

7:34AM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

aS A LONG TIME TRAVELLER MY FAMILY AND I HAVE USED,ARE USING AND WILL CARRY ON USING SKYPE FOR MANY MORE YEARS TO COME.

WE HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE AND NEVER HAD ANY PROBLEMS....EVEN IN CHINA!

6:32PM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

good points Margaret!

12:14PM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

Please keep in mind that corporate case law is not about "truth' per se it is about the financial ability to create a particular set of posited realities. If companies wanted to be viewed and see themselves as similar to us as individuals with belief systems then they would not have fought over so many decades to be viewed and dealt with as "entities" claiming rights like us but not liable in the same manner as we are treated under law. In other words there is no one individual but an entity as a corporation that has now been given special powers of secrecy and protection we as human beings will never attain. 'Trust in us' is simply a convenience that corporations changes every quarter.

11:42AM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc. There is NO absolute privacy when using any of these platforms. People need to understand that. Use social media if you must, but don't expect to be completely safe from prying eyes and ears.

11:34AM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

I love Skype and have no worries about it. Now Facebook is something else.

11:23AM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

I have been trying to cancel my Skype account for 2 months. How the heck do I contact a live person there who will do it? Maybe they are so involved in snooping, they don't respond to customers!

10:37AM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

I just left Facebook because I was worried about how they controlled our information and now I hvae to worry about Skype? I really hope this company is telling the truth.

10:18AM PDT on Aug 1, 2012

Just because Skype is a new found wonder for you in keeping in touch with your family doesn't mean they are somehow except by the same standards of behavior as we are in our daily lives. One could argue that just because we have a plentiful and varied food supply does not mean we should allow a quid pro quo scenario where we should trust our food to corporations that can secretively modified it genetically. The most telling word associated with this corporation and others is their penchant for secrecy in this particular case by fighting against any labeling that marks these products.

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