Big brother Microsoft listens in to your Skype IMs

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.

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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

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79 comments
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  • How about an article on privacy policies of Google Voice and Google Chat ?

    Or Google is exempted from everything and your rants are specific to Microsoft ?
    1773
    • It's just the author trying to scare people into using Anything but MS.

      Funny thing is, SJVN knew that Skype did this pre-MS, yet said nothing at all. Zilch. Nada. Wasn't an issue.

      In fact, he tends to believe that Google storing all you info is fine, as they aren't giving it out to anyone, it's there for Google if law enforcement subpoena's them.

      His usual double standard.
      William Farrel
    • Google snooping isn't news

      Google snooping on people is no longer news. Besides, if all you have to say is "Google did it too!", then all I have to say is "cry more".
      Third of Five
    • A little misdirection here

      "Everybody does it" is the first refuge of the scoundrel.
      John L. Ries
      • He just called out Google, not "everybody"

        But besides, why is it that yellow journalists like SJVN like to propagandize the impression that companies like MSFT have warehouses of front-line monitoring staff reviewing all of your phone conversations and IMs? Sorry, but the reality of it is your digital history sits archived on a hard disk array in some datacenter for 30-60 days and then gone.

        Is that ok? Well, no, not necessarily in the name of absolute privacy. But it sure as hell isn't Big Brother watching your every move, as SJVM would like you to think.
        SJVM obviously has something to hide, or else he wouldn't be on his soap box.

        Oh yeah, he's "advocating for your rights", is that it?
        Let's see him write a similar article on Yahoo IM or Google Voice.
        milo ducillo
        • Edit: He exonerates OoVoo

          From OoVoo's privacy policy :
          [They have the right to collect] "Other personally identifiable information about you and third parties that you may choose to transmit through the Services, including personally identifiable information contained within ****files, video or audio calls or text messages**** "

          Boil that down to, "We're sorry, but if we have to be able to have access to such PI in such media, we have no choice but to store said media for that purpose."
          milo ducillo
        • "The competition does it"...

          ...isn't any better an excuse than "everybody does it" ("Jerry's mother let's him play on the freeway").
          John L. Ries
          • Agreed, but that wasn't my point.

            My point was to call out SJVM as a non-objective "tech journalist" and a hypocrite.
            It's also wrong for a teapot to call a kettle black.
            milo ducillo
          • But...

            WHY is that your point? I just stumbled across this post because it came up in a google search I did for specifically this information, and from comment one it's just a bunch of people who despise the author with the kind of seething hatred you typically only see in religion or politics these days. I don't get all of this hellfire reaction to something which to me seems like a pretty legitimate thing to be concerned about.
            Jane Weneg
    • Google snooping has been out there for years

      Some of you dummies act like that's new news.

      What IS new is your precious M$ is now in the spy business using Skype. No wonder they needed to buy it for further data mining.
      CaviarBlack
    • You are just generating cash for SJVN

      Remember count to 10 and move on, otherwise your disbelief and angry responses to his articles are just his revenue stream as he's paid by the number of posts. If he sticks to just reporting Linux, the posts are few and far between.
      Tony_McS
  • Google

    Is Google Voice any different? My guess is no.
    clcrockett
    • Probably not

      But listening to some of the slavish fanbuis around here, M$ is supposed to be "above it all".

      You mean that's not true?

      (gasp....) /:O
      CaviarBlack
      • We understand CaviarBlack, exactly what you are saying

        it is acceptable for Google and others to do something like this, but wrong for Microsoft to do the same thing.

        Is Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols one of your aliases? I only ask as you are as non-objective, and as hypocritical as he is, maybe even more.
        :|
        Tim Cook
        • To most above posters

          I am not going to comment on the topic of this piece but on the responses. Funny how the response changes depending on who the story is about. Those same people that are bashing others for calling out MS while giving others a pass I have seen time and time again give MS a pass will bashing some other company for doing pretty much exactly what they are giving MS a pass on. Half the people posting here are being hypocrites because I have seen them give a pass to their company of choice in the past while bashing another. It's all about perspective.
          non-biased
          • Finally a comment that makes sense

            I don't frequent these forums. Registered just to comment on this post, 'cause I'm baffled at the comments.

            I seriously don't get it. I came across this article because I use MS's products, including Skype, and am concerned about the security of my calls. I heard about some potentially hinky stuff going on and googled it, and found this.. and from comment one, it seems like there is just a small army of author-hating clowns waiting to rain down fire and hatred on the post just 'cause it's from him. What's that about??? The few posts that seem to actually have something to do with the issue at hand, seem to be knee-jerk opposition-reaction, justifying whatever because this guy is condemning it.

            Someone else posted a comment that went against the grain, and the first response to them was to call them a rabid hypocrite "like the author" and suggest they're probably the author under a different alias. Seriously??

            This is some bizarre, hate-fueled feedback, people. If you despise this guy so much, why are you even here? It's like when people listen to the Howard Stern show for 6 hours a day, because they hate him just that much.
            Jane Weneg
  • How about an article about privacy policies of Google Voice and Google Chat

    or is Google exempted from everything and your rant is restricted to all things Microsoft ?
    What is the status of data retention policies as required by law ? Any word on that ? How about the compliance to "The Patriot Act" since anybody not following it is an enemy. What are the data retention policies and wiretapping laws with respect to telephone companies ?
    1773
    • Much ink has already been spilled about that

      There has already been plenty of coverage on Google's privacy problems; another such article would merely be another dog on the pile.
      Third of Five
  • This stuff is required by law for all devices and software sold in US...

    as others have said, just like all of Google Services as well... do you have a point?

    If you think you have any kind of anonymity from law enforcement while using online services, you are incredibly naive... any vendor that wants to sell their telecommunications wares in the US... MUST.. BY LAW have a back door for law enforcement... you must know this if you call yourself a tech journalist...
    theFunkDoctorSpoc
    • He doesn't have to know that

      as he isn't a tech journalist in the most liberal sense of the term.
      milo ducillo