Skype Refuses to Help Government Spy on Users

Skype has had a bad week in the world of security. Early last week, they were accused of letting the US government spy on its users as they spoke over video chat. Skype has stepped up in the past few days and told the public that this is completely untrue.

“Some media stories recently have suggested Skype may be acting improperly or based on ulterior motives against our users’ interests,” says Mark Gillett, operations officer at Skype. “Nothing could be more contrary to the Skype philosophy.”

Skype supported 115 billion minutes of phone talk time last quarter alone; that’s an average of 460 minutes per active user on Skype. The company is being accused of allowing the government to tap into conversations and listen in on what’s being said. However, Gillett explains Skype’s side of the story in a recent blog post, and highlights many of the concerns that the public has had about their calls.

Here are a few of the most important parts of the post:

It has been suggested that as a result of recent architecture changes Skype now monitors and records audio and video calls of our users.

False. The move to in-house hosting of “supernodes” does not provide for monitoring or recording of calls. “Supernodes” help Skype clients to locate each other so that Skype calls can be made. Simply put, supernodes act as a distributed directory of Skype users. Skype to Skype calls do not flow through our data centres and the “supernodes” are not involved in passing media (audio or video) between Skype clients.

Some commentators have suggested that Skype has stopped protecting its users’ communications.

False. Skype software autonomously applies encryption to Skype to Skype calls between computers, smartphones and other mobile devices with the capacity to carry a full version of Skype software as it always has done. This has not changed.

Skype does, however, keep personal information from its users in the system for up to thirty days because it is legally required, and the company continues to say that their primary interest is providing excellent customer service and a good product for its fans and users.