Earlier this month, Microsoft finally merged it’s messenger service with Skype, a move that hoped to spark some growth for the video conferencing/calling/chat service. It seems that Skype got press late last week, however, not necessarily what they were hoping for.
In an open letter to Skype Division President, Tony Bates, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, and other organizations called for Microsoft to make their disclosure of user data to third parties more transparent. As The Verge pointed out, the calls for a more transparent Skype comes at the heels of it’s new Chinese branded service, TOM-Skype; though the service looks like Skype, it runs through government servers – making many journalists working behind the Great Firewall understandably nervous.
Though there are open-source alternatives, it would be foolhardy to not take into account the size of the user base that Skype commands; below are the five points that the EFF and co-signers’ wish to have Microsoft address;
We call on Skype to release a regularly updated Transparency Report that includes:
- Quantitative data regarding the release of Skype user information to third parties, disaggregated by the country of origin of the request, including the number of requests made by governments, the type of data requested, the proportion of requests with which it complied — and the basis for rejecting those requests it does not comply with.
- Specific details of all user data Microsoft and Skype currently collects, and retention policies.
- Skype’s best understanding of what user data third-parties, including network providers or potential malicious attackers, may be able to intercept or retain.
- Documentation regarding the current operational relationship between Skype with TOM Online in China and other third-party licensed users of Skype technology, including Skype’s understanding of the surveillance and censorship capabilities that users may be subject to as a result of using these alternatives.
- Skype’s interpretation of its responsibilities under the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), its policies related to the disclosure of call metadata in response to subpoenas and National Security Letters (NSLs), and more generally, the policies and guidelines for employees followed when Skype receives and responds to requests for user data from law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the United States and elsewhere.
Considering the work that these groups are doing and the very clear and present danger that it puts them and their sources in, it’s understandable the kind of interest they would have in making Skype a more transparent communication tool. We too hope that Microsoft moves – a lot more than just an inch.