Skype Responds to Claims of Increased Involvement with Law Enforcement

Brad Chacos

Ever since Skype updated its network to transfer the supernodes that power the service away from a P2P system and onto secure, Skype-run data servers, rumors have run rampant that the update occurred solely to make Skype more amicable to government wiretapping requests. Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a story claiming that Skype recently expanded its cooperation with authorities, and the architecture changes let the company provide more chat and user info to feds. Last evening, Skype officially responded to the various allegations in a blog post by COO Mark Gillett . In a nutshell, Gillett says the rumors are nuts.

"It has been suggested that Skype made changes in its architecture at the behest of Microsoft in order to provide law enforcement with greater access to our users' communications," Gillett wrote. "False." Nor, Gillett claims, did Skype change its policy for cooperating with government information requests, stop encrypting Skype communications, or start recording users' audio and video calls. (Given the nature of the service, it isn't even technically possible for Skype to record calls.)

Skype's supernode changes were simply to improve service performance and were set in motion long before Microsoft bought the company, Gillett explains. As far as the Washington Post's claim that the update allows Skype to provide IM details to law enforcement, Gillett says the following:

In order to provide for the delivery and synchronization of instant messages across multiple devices, and in order to manage the delivery of messages between clients situated behind some firewalls which prevent direct connections between clients, some messages are stored temporarily on our (Skype/Microsoft) servers for immediate or later delivery to a user .

Skype has employees whose sole purpose is handling legal requests for information, however, and Gillett stresses that the temporary IM data stored on Skype's servers will only be given to authorities if Skype finds the request to be both "legally required and technically feasible." Skype's privacy policy has always stated as such -- and it's right in line with that of pretty much every service provider around the world.

The message from Skype seems exceptionally clear-cut and straightforward, especially in a world of PR speak and corporate communications that are full of words, but really say nothing. Do Gillett's comments comfort your Skype communication worries?

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