Paranoia or not, in June of 2011 Microsoft was granted a patent for code to legally intercept VoIP calls, such as Skype, just a month after it acquired Skype. whether this technology was subsequently integrated into Skype, Skype refuses to answer.
Mark Gillett, Skype’s Chief Development Officer, writes on Skype’s Blog in July 2012 that Skype will continue protecting their user’s privacy and only reveal content stored on their servers if legally required, technically feasible and law enforcement follows the appropriate procedures.
What does that really mean?
The company that owns Skype has a patent for software allowing interception of VoIP calls, and Skype isn’t confirming or denying if this software is part of Skype. Obviously every company must comply with the laws of the country it is operating in and provide access to information if legally required.
Skype applies strong encryption to it’s communication and I don’t see why they would routinely monitor or record user’s communications. They keep Instant Messages for up to 30 days to run their service and deliver messages to users who are not reachable at the time the message originates. Skype calls to and from regular phones (yes, some people still use those) travel over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and are not as secure as Skype-to-Skype calls.
It all broils down to a simple question of trust. Do you trust Skype to keep your communications private? Only you can answer this question. What bothers me is Skype’s lack of transparency, leading me to believe that they do have the ability to monitor calls and instant message conversations, but are afraid to admit this to avoid negative PR and financial repercussions.
For those who are looking for a more secure instant messaging platform and don’t want to or lack the ability to setup their own server you might want to check out CryptoCat a simple and elegant solution to securely communicate from right within your browser. Cryptocat is the brainchild of Nadim Kobeissi, a Canadian born in Lebanon, currently living in Montreal, who studies political science and philosophy at Concordia University.
Nadim encourages people to use it if their security depends on remaining anonymous and their only alternatives are Facebook Chat, Google Talk or Skype; however, Nadim considers Cryptocat an experiment and continues development with the goal to make Cryptocat something you would want to use not need to.