Skype Data Sharing: Privacy Groups Alarmed

Dennis Faas's picture

Several prominent privacy groups say they're now concerned about the amount of user information that Skype, purchased by Microsoft in October 2011 for $8.5 billion, is collecting and sharing with other parties.

In a recent open letter to Microsoft officials, a large number of privacy groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Reporters Without Borders, and, have pressed Microsoft to publicly discuss exactly how much Skype user information it currently shares with third parties.

The letter makes clear that those third parties to which Microsoft is handing private information could include government agencies. (Source:

Privacy Groups: Microsoft Failing Skype Users

Specifically, the groups that wrote the letter want to know if it's possible for third parties to intercept a Skype call. They are concerned that Microsoft's Skype division may actually be violating United States wiretap laws.

In total, about forty-five different groups reportedly signed the letter, which states that many Skype users are concerned about their vital personal information being shared without their knowledge.

"Many [Skype] users rely on Skype for secure communications -- whether they are activists operating in countries governed by authoritarian regimes, journalists communicating with sensitive sources, or users who wish to talk privately in confidence with business associates, family, or friends," the letter reads, in part.

The letter goes on to note that it "is unfortunate that these users, and those who advise them on best security practices, work in the face of persistently unclear and confusing statements about the confidentiality of Skype conversations."

Skype, which currently has a user base of about 600 million members, has responded only to say it is reviewing the letter. (Source:

July 2012 Report: "Lawful Interceptions" Possible

The concerns about privacy violations stem from a July 2012 report which suggested that adjustments to Skype's architecture have made it easy for third parties to conduct "lawful interceptions" of phone calls. (Source:

Unlike Skype, other web-based firms, including Twitter and Google, regularly release reports outlining the nature and number of data requests made by third parties.

The EFF and other privacy groups claim it's now time for Microsoft and Skype to adopt a similar policy.

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