Skype has, for long, withstood the pressure from governments all around the world demanding it to reveal user conversations. In fact, some time back, Skype even boasted that its architecture is such that it can’t even do so even if it tried. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore and Skype refuses to reveal whether or not it is cooperating with governments in order to reveal user conversations.
Skype’s claim of being unable to snoop into user conversations was probably valid a while ago. But ever since its acquisition by Microsoft, things have been going the wrong way. First, Microsoft made significant amendments to the chat client’s architecture which can possibly allow so-called ‘lawful interception’ of calls made through it.
Next, Microsoft filed a patent about a technology which would allow it to ‘legally intercept’ VoIP services such as Skype itself. Of course, we can’t rush to any conclusions but if even a half-witted guess was to be made, one would say that Microsoft is actively doing all that Skype wouldn’t do before the acquisition.
Now, Slate’s Will Oremus reports that despite his repeated inquiries, Skype has refused to reveal that whether or not it is wiretapping any conversations on the requests of the governments. Instead, the PR guy for the chat client keeps telling Skype ‘co-operates with law enforcement agencies as much as is legally and technically possible.’
If this was a mere privacy concern for the users, it would have been okay. But Skype playing into the hands of the governments is dangerous. That is because activists, political dissidents and other people from around the globe have relied on Skype, in the past, to ensure that they are communicating without fear of being overheard. Sadly, with the new changes Microsoft seems intent on building into the chat client, that will no longer be the case.
The best thing that Skype can do, as Oremus states, is to at least publish a transparency report that clarifies its position on the whole issue and publicly shames those who actively wish to eavesdrop onto the conversations of Skype users.