skype RWB demands transparency report from Microsoft regarding Skype wiretapping

One of the rumors that constantly beleaguered Skype has been that law enforcement has the ability to eavesdrop in on your calls. Now we have the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as Reporters Without Borders, asking the same thing in an open letter.

One of the most persistent rumors when it comes to Microsoft's Skype communication program is that there are backdoors to the program that allow law enforcement agencies to be able to eavesdrop in on calls made with the software. It is this question that a new "open letter" from the Electric Freedom Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, and many journalists and privacy activists is asking of the company.

Their concern is that Skype has, in many cases, become the de facto method of communication for activists living in totalitarian and repressive regimes, and for journalists to communicate with their sources. For these types of people, the need for privacy and security is of prime importance, to the point that some people’s lives may very well depend on that privacy.

It is felt by these groups that (i.e. Google) there needs to be some sort of transparency report when it comes to Skype. A report that details Skype's privacy policy as well as exactly what data Microsoft does release to third parties and who those third parties are. They also want a clear statement as to what access governments and other third parties have to Skype user data and their communications.

Included in the transparency report, the groups would also like to see how many times Skype has responded to government requests and what criteria the company uses to when deciding to share the requested information.

All this concern is contrary to the past as Skype was at one time applauded for its privacy efforts due in large part to its use of very strong encryption used on the calls. Skype even publicly stated that its security practices made it impossible to wiretap any conversations.  The encryption was strong enough to the point where several police agencies around the world complained about it.

This attitude has changed in recent years because, as noted by hackers, Skype's basic architecture has been redesigned. It is this redesign that some argue has made it easier for interested authorities to listen in on a person's Skype calls.

While Skype has come out and denied that the redesign had anything to do with them acquiescing to governments and law enforcement, the company still won't clarify whether it allows for wiretapping. This of course wasn't helped when Microsoft, this past summer, applied for a patent for "legal intercept", presumably to be applied against its own communications software.

Given Microsoft and Skype's reticence in dealing with this privacy question when it comes to Skype, we will no doubt hear more about this issue in the future.

via Mashable