Who Does Skype Let Spy?
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about power and the Internet, and what I call the feudal model of IT security that is becoming more and more pervasive. Basically, between cloud services and locked-down end-user devices, we have less control and visibility over our security—and have no point but to trust those in power to keep us safe.
The effects of this model were in the news last week, when privacy activists pleaded with Skype to tell them who is spying on Skype calls.
“Many of its users rely on Skype for secure communications—whether they are activists operating in countries governed by authoritarian regimes, journalists communicating with sensitive sources, or users who wish to talk privately in confidence with business associates, family, or friends,” the letter explains.
Among the group’s concerns is that although Skype was founded in Europe, its acquisition by a US-based company—Microsoft—may mean it is now subject to different eavesdropping and data-disclosure requirements than it was before.
The group claims that both Microsoft and Skype have refused to answer questions about what kinds of user data the service retains, whether it discloses such data to governments, and whether Skype conversations can be intercepted.
The letter calls upon Microsoft to publish a regular Transparency Report outlining what kind of data Skype collects, what third parties might be able to intercept or retain, and how Skype interprets its responsibilities under the laws that pertain to it. In addition it asks for quantitative data about when, why, and how Skype shares data with third parties, including governments.
That’s security in today’s world. We have no choice but to trust Microsoft. Microsoft has reasons to be trustworthy, but they also have reasons to betray our trust in favor of other interests. And all we can do is ask them nicely to tell us first.
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