Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Microsoft could intercept and record Skype calls, say privacy advocates

Newly patented Legal Intercept technology could secretly monitor communication

Article comments

A newly patented Microsoft technology called Legal Intercept that would allow the company to secretly intercept, monitor and record Skype calls is stoking privacy concerns.

Microsoft's patent application for Legal Intercept was filed in 2009, well before the company's $8.5 billion purchase of Skype. The patent was granted last week.

From Microsoft's description of the technology in its patent application, Legal Intercept appears similar to tools used by telecommunication companies and equipment makers to comply with government wiretap and surveillance requests. According to Microsoft, Legal Intercept is designed to silently record communications on VoIP networks such as Skype.

"Data associated with a request to establish a communication is modified to cause the communication to be established via a path that includes a recording agent." The recording agent is then able to "silently record" the communication, according to Microsoft's description. "Modification may include, for example, adding, changing and/or deleting data within the data. The data as modified is then passed to a protocol entity that uses the data to establish a communication session."

According to Microsoft, Legal Intercept addresses gaps in current monitoring tools that are designed mainly for intercepting Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). "With new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and other communication technology, the POTS model for recording communications does not work," Microsoft noted in the patent application.

Michael Froomkin, a professor of law at the University Of Miami School Of Law, said that from the patent description it sounds as if the technology would allow Microsoft to do is make Skype CALEA capable.

CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) requires telecommunications carriers and makers of communications equipment to enable their equipment so it can be used for surveillance purposes by federal law enforcement agencies.

But the implications of the technology are much broader, Froomkin added. "First, making a communication technology FBI-friendly means also making it dictator-friendly, and in the long run this is not good for movements like the Arab Spring," he said. "Second, experience shows that building in back doors invites exploits."

Skype has also been somewhat cagey about whether it's had a CALEA-style back door all along, he said. "Skype doesn't fully disclose how it works or how it encrypts," Froomkin said. "As a result users must take a great deal on faith. History teaches us over and over that faith is very easily misplaced," he added.

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said the recently patented technology aligns with Microsoft's broader goals.

The company "aims to incorporate tracking technologies for its Skype services, as it aggressively expands its mobile advertising system across the world," Chester said. "Skype will likely soon have ad targeting and user profiling digit strings attached. This underscores the need for strong mobile and location privacy safeguards," he said.

A Microsoft spokesman said the company would not comment on the technology.



Share:

More from Techworld

More relevant IT news

Comments

Lucy Millan said: as for me i use this tool for skype recording httpwwwimcapturecomIMCap i enjoy it



Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *