Is Microsoft Spying On You Via Skype Or Not?

    July 23, 2012
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

Back in May, we brought you news that Microsoft had moved Skype from P2P to its own dedicated Linux-based servers. At the time, it was funny because Microsoft was using Linux servers instead of Windows Servers to host Skype, but things have become a little more worrisome since then.

Slate is reporting that many feel the change to dedicated servers is to that Microsoft can spy on your Skype conversations. It was previously impossible due to the strong encryption and P2P networking that powered the service. The move to dedicated servers would definitely make it infinitely easier for law enforcement to wiretap Skype calls. Why would Microsoft do such a thing though?

The FBI has been pressuring Skype and other online communication services to put their support behind an amendment to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. The amendment would force these providers into assisting the FBI in surveillance over digital communication. Now that Skype is owned by Microsoft, it’s even more plausible that the company moved to dedicated servers to facilitate the needs of the FBI.

Slate did a little digging and found some rather strange coincidences. Only a month after Microsoft bought Skype, the company was granted a patent for “legal intercept” technology that would allow them to capture and record conversations made over Skype’s VOIP technology. Skype also changed its privacy policy allowing them to hand over “personal data, communications content and/or traffic data to an appropriate judicial, law enforcement or government authority.”

Those could all be a coincidences or Skype really is ok with selling you out to the authorities. What makes this even stranger is that Slate contacted Skype for comment numerous times before being told that the company “cooperates with law enforcement agencies as much as is legally and technically possible.”

Now, don’t go uninstalling Skype and putting on your tinfoil hat. Once again, this could all just be a coincidence. Even if it wasn’t, Microsoft is probably just readying Skype to comply with the law. Besides, the FBI could just ask the NSA for all the details of what you had for breakfast and how much you love your dog.

  • Head Coach

    Zach, nice article. I told my wife last year that this was happening. We were talking about certain things that we wanted to do to the house (paint, remodel…etc) and within 5 minutes, we were getting spam email from companies that do remodeling and discounts on paints. Yes, I know they have a link that you need to uncheck in the privacy tab, but &%$# still keeps coming.

    But, several years ago, Microsoft was on the chopping block with the Government just like Ma-Bell was back in the late 70’s. But one day they were in the news and the next day….crickets!

    I wouldn’t doubt that our tax dollars actually paid for the purchase of Skype. I would bet that because it was a P2P and the MAN wasn’t able to watch us, they probably told Microsoft to buy it and they would get special tax breaks or maybe they got the money in one of those fat juicy pork belly laws that was hidden in one of those Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act deals that was passed when the President okay-ed the bill for special funding, which allows the poor to get a new cell phone deal called…Life Line. Which comes in the form of a “Universal Access Fee” that you and everyone else pay on that monthly statement.

  • greg

    Interesting – I guess this leaves the door open for other services to wipe out skype … more contact lists to move ..aaaagggghhhh

    just more ammunition to seal off the US as far as anything with the internet goes – then they can be happy spying on themselves.

    if I was linkedin I would be worried there too…..

  • http://cass-hacks.com Craig

    Now where’s my tin-foil hat when I need it!

    Where do people get the mistaken impression that there is anything going on in their lives worth spying on? The self-important indignation that people seem to have is often comical.

    I could see concerns for businesses who may use Skype for meetings and such but besides the fact that there are much better solutions out there, trusting any free service with no contractual guarantees to prevent someone from eavesdropping and using whatever information they may glean, whether P2P or ‘encrypted’ or not, must not be talking about anything important in their meetings.

  • http://www.headhuntable.com/jobs Michael

    The only people who should honestly be worrying about this are people who actually need to worry about it… If your just an ordinary citizen then I think you’ll be alright and don’t have to think anything of it.

    • http://Mabuzi.com Kevin

      People like yourself are responsible for the worst dictators in the world coming to power.
      If you sift through the Hitler, Stalin, Mao works – you will find plenty of quotations identical to your statement.

      “There is no sentient human being in the Western world who has little or no regard for his or her personal privacy; those who would attempt such claims cannot withstand even a few minutes’ questioning about intimate aspects of their lives without capitulating to the intrusiveness of certain subject matters.”
      – Canadian privacy expert David Flaherty

      Pol Pot: “The Communist dwellings must not have any walls. Honest citizens have got nothing to hide.”