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Skype Won't Say Whether It Can Eavesdrop on Your Conversations

Historically, Skype has been a major barrier to law enforcement agencies. Using strong encryption and complex peer-to-peer network connections, Skype was considered by most to be virtually impossible to intercept. Police forces in Germany complained in 2007 that they couldn’t spy on Skype calls and even hired a company to develop covert Trojans to record suspects’ chats. At around the same time, Skype happily went on record saying that it could not conduct wiretaps because of its "peer-to-peer architecture and encryption techniques."

What has changed?

So what has changed? In May 2011, Microsoft bought over Skype for $8.5 billion. One month later, in June, Microsoft was granted a patent for "legal intercept" research designed to be used with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services like Skype to "silently copy communication transmitted via the communication session." Whether this research was subsequently integrated into the Skype architecture, it’s impossible to say for sure. Like as not Skype’s reason for refusing to answer the interception question is because Microsoft has instituted a stricter media strategy than back in 2008. Either way, looking at Skype’s privacy policy today, it’s clear the company is truly in a position to hand over until further notice some user communications to authorities if requested.

Under Section 3 of the privacy policy, it is stated that Skype or its partners "may provide personal data, communications content and/or traffic data to an appropriate judicial, law enforcement or government authority lawfully requesting such information." It as well notes that instant messages sent over Skype will be stored for a maximum 30 days "unless if not permitted or required by law."

It is like as not unsurprising that, with 663 million registered users reported last year, Skype has come pursuant to this agreement pressure to enable interception of calls.

More information: Slate