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Skype hoses down eavesdropping concerns

Skype has denied reports that recent changes to its architecture would make calls and messages easier to monitor by law enforcement.

Skype, a worldwide Internet-based voice and video calling service Microsoft acquired last year for $8.5 billion, said Tuesday the changes to its peer-to-peer infrastructure were done to improve the quality of service.

What it did

What it did was move "supernodes" into datacenters, Skype said. Supernodes act as directories that find the right recipient for calls. In the past, a user's computer that was capable of acting as a directory was upgraded from a node to a supernode. A node is the generic term for computers on a network.

"This has not changed the underlying nature of Skype's peer-to-peer architecture, in which supernodes simply allow users to find one another. Calls do not pass through supernodes," Mark Gillett, chief development and operations officer, said in an email.

Because Skype has not rerouted voice, video and messaging traffic through supernodes, nothing substantive has changed in its network in regards to privacy. "As was true previously the Microsoft acquisition," a Skype representative said in a separate email.

Skype, like all other U.S. telecoms providing real-time communications, is required to provide law enforcement with access to its network. In accordance with federal law, police with warrants can eavesdrop on conversations. Skype encrypts voice, video and data traffic and holds the decryption keys.

Skype's peer-to-peer network is much cheaper to use than making international calls on traditional carriers' networks. During the overall service quality is lower, it is good enough for people calling friends and family. Skype is free between registered users.

More information: Idg
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