Big brother Microsoft listens in to your Skype IMs

Summary:Yes, Microsoft is recording, at the least, your Skype instant messages, and they have the potential to record your voice calls as well.

Skype 4 on Linux
Skype is untrustworthy.

The question was: “ Is Skype snooping on your conversations? ” The answer is yes.

According to a Microsoft Skype spokesperson, “As was true before the Microsoft acquisition, Skype co-operates with law enforcement agencies as is legally required and technically feasible.” So what the heck does that mean?

It means, by the terms of the Skype Privacy Policy:

Skype may gather and use information about you, including (but not limited to) information in the following categories:

(a) Identification data (e.g. name, address, telephone number, mobile number, email address);

(b) Profile information (e.g. age, gender, country of residence, language preference, and any information that you choose to make available to others as part of your Skype user profile as further described in Section 6);

(c) Electronic identification data (e.g. IP addresses, cookies);

(d) Banking and payment information (credit card information, account number);

(e) Survey results;

(f) Information about your usage of and interaction with the Skype software, our products and websites including computer, platform, device and connection information, device capability, bandwidth, statistics on page views, and traffic to and from our websites, browser type and Skype WiFi enabled hotspot detection and usage statistics;

(g) Products or services ordered and delivered;

(h) The URL of videos that you have selected to appear in your mood message;

(i) Skype test calls made to ECHO123 (which are recorded and played back to the user and deleted thereafter);

(j) List of your contacts (we will give you a choice as to whether you want Skype to use contact lists from other services to populate your Skype contacts);

(k) Your username and password for other email accounts where you have provided this to us and requested us to search for your friends on Skype (please note that Skype does not retain this information after completing the search or use it for any other purpose);

(l) Correspondence between you and Skype;

(m) Traffic data (data processed for the purpose of the conveyance of communications or the billing thereof, including, but not limited to, the duration of the call, the number calling and the number called); and

(n) Content of instant messaging communications (please see section 12);

(o) Location information, derived from your mobile carrier or from the mobile device that you use. In connection with the Qik products, you control when your location is shared with others. Your location is displayed and shared with other Qik users only in accordance with your privacy settings. You also may create location information by "geo-tagging" your submitted content with location information. Please manage your privacy settings for location information carefully;

(p) Mobile device information, such as manufacturer’s name, device model number, operating system, carrier network;

(q) Location information and device identifiers, derived from your device, when you enter into a Skype WiFi compatible hotspot. This information may be used to detect eligibility to connect using Skype WiFi and for the purposes of offering, providing and marketing Skype WiFi to you.

Skype currently keeps your  instant messages “for a maximum of 30 days unless otherwise permitted or required by law. Voicemail messages are currently stored for a maximum of 60 days unless otherwise permitted or required by law.”

That's a lot of personal and private information by anyone's standard. We still do not know if Microsoft keeps your recordings of your Skype Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls. Notice that the privacy statement starts with the catch-all phrase “ including (but not limited to) information in the following categories.” So, Microsoft may very well be keeping your phone calls.

When pressed on this exact point, the Skype spokesperson responded, “We don’t have anything additional to share beyond what we already said.”

Others have commented on Skype's new and exclusive use of Microsoft controlled  “supernodes.” Supernodes act like the yellow pages of Skype. They set up the peer-to-peer communication connections between users.

Mark Gillett, Skype's Chief Development and Operations Officer, explained that “As part of our ongoing commitment to continually improve the Skype user experience, we developed supernodes which can be located on dedicated servers within secure datacenters. This has not changed the underlying nature of Skype’s peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture, in which supernodes simply allow users to find one another (calls do not pass through supernodes). We believe this approach has immediate performance, scalability and availability benefits for the hundreds of millions of users that make up the Skype community.”

Skype calls used to be well-known for being very hard to tap. We now know though that, regardless of whether supernodes are used in the process, Microsoft can and does record all Skype IMs.  Microsoft/Skype won't tell us how they do it, we just know that they do it. There is no reason to believe that they can't record our  Skype voice calls as well.

Therefore, any person or business who is concerned with their communication privacy should stop using Skype and look for an alternative.

Related Stories:

Is Skype snooping on your conversations?

Skype jumps the shark: Seven alternative VoIP services

Microsoft's Lync Server 2013: Skype federation, hybrid voice and more

Microsoft unexpectedly ships a new version of Skype for Linux

Skype squashes bug that sends messages to random contacts

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, Networking, Privacy, Security, Unified Comms

About

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka sjvn, has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was the cutting edge, PC operating system; 300bps was a fast Internet connection; WordStar was the state of the art word processor; and we liked it.His work has been published in everything from highly technical publications... Full Bio

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