Skype has been in the news more often the past few weeks thanks to some rumors that Microsoft is now using the service to spy on users. It all started with some rumor mongering that their upgrade to Linux servers was at the behest of Microsoft to make spying easier. A Washington Post article later claimed that inside sources confirmed that Skype was spying on text chats. The Corporate Vice President of Skype Product Engineering & Operations says it’s all hogwash and he’s here to set the record straight.
In a massive and rather frank post on the Skype blog, CVP Mark Gillett addresses all the concerns that people have in regards to privacy and Skype. He says that every single accusation levied against the company is false and that they are still the consumer friendly company they have always been.
The accusation that started all of this was the changes to Skype’s architecture. Gillett says that Skype made the changes “to provide the best possible product to our users.” He says that the company was already in the process of moving supernodes to the cloud long before they were acquired by Microsoft.
As for their cooperation with law enforcement, Gillett claims that their policy has not changed since 2005. They will accomodate law enforcement when it “follows appropriate procedures” and they “respond where legally required and technically feasible.”
The move to in-house hosting does not give Skype the ability to monitor or record your conversations. The in-house servers were only added help establish calls. The data that’s transferred during calls (audio and video) are only passed between the two Skype clients and never through their servers.
The company addressed the claims from the Washington Post that said Skype was actively monitoring instant messages on Skype. Gillett does say that messages are stored on their servers temporarily if the message can’t get through to another user. The key word is temporarily as they are never hosted on their servers for that long. They will of course respond to legitimate law enforcement requests whenever possible in regards to instant messages.
The company has also not skimped out on protecting your conversations from other prying eyes. Gillett says that Skype still applies the same encryption to messages that it always has. The only version of Skype that has been altered is the version available in China, which allows for a chat filter in accordance with local laws.
As I said, it’s surprising to see Skype’s CVP be so frank about his company’s operations. Of course, the company’s hand was forced as stories of surveillance and unwarranted wiretapping became the norm when Skype was mentioned in the news. There will still be those who believe Skype is spying on them, but Gillett’s responses should help calm the majority of people who were concerned.