Tuesday, 5 November 2013

We’re Watching You!!

Luxembourg Authorities Investigating Skype’s Relationship With NSA

Skype is not spying on you, or at least that’s what it said back in July of last year. That claim is now suspect in the wake of the Snowden leaks, especially one that found Skype had made it easier for the NSA/FBI to intercept calls being made on the service. Now Skype’s home country of Luxembourg has opened an investigation into the company.
The Guardian reports that Luxembourg’s data protection commissioner has opened an investigation regarding Skype’s alleged ties to the NSA. In particular, the commissioner wants to find out if Skype is in violation of the country’s strict surveillance laws. The country only approves surveillance in one of two ways – judicial approval or through a tribunal.
What’s interesting about this investigation is that Skype’s work with the NSA could be totally legal in Luxembourg. The Guardian notes that Skype’s activities may have been approved through some secret means not privy to the data protection commissioner. If that turns out to be the case, he will be hit with the one-two punch of not only being able to prosecute, but also learning that the government went over his head to approve surveillance.
If Skype is found in violation of the law, however, the commissioner will be able to pursue a number of remedies. For starters, he could outright ban Skype from sharing communications data with the NSA or any other government entity. It also faces the usual fines that come with privacy violations.
A lot of the concerns regarding Skype are not new. Last year, the company announced that it was moving from decentralized P2P communications to servers. The move was defended as a way to increase call quality, but moving away from P2P also makes it easier for the authorities to eavesdrop on and even save calls made over Skype. The company vehemently denied such accusations last year, but as noted above, it’s a little harder to do so now that we know about PRISM.
With Skype under investigation, where does this leave Microsoft? Well, the company has already made it clear that it intends to fight the U.S. government on making the NSA and its federal data request program more transparent. If its wish is granted, we would most likely be able to see how many people are targeted on Skype. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t seem too interested in actually stopping Skype surveillance though. Maybe Luxembourg’s data protection commissioner has more luck in his investigation.

No comments: