Skype denies Microsoft redesign allows authorities to spy

Microsoft pays record $8.5bn for Skype in online battle crySkype has defended changes to its technical infrastructure following claims they make it easier for authorities to spy on its 600 million users.

The firm, acquired by Microsoft last year, admitted it had redesigned its network to give it greater control, but denied it the move was meant to assist law enforcement.
Skype did not deny a report, however, that the changes do mean it can hand over more data about users in response to lawful requests from authorities.
The firm has moved its “supernodes” – major junctions within its network that help connect calls – into Microsoft data centres. They were previously run by individual users, but Skype said the new corporate-run architecture will be more reliable.
“The move to supernodes was not intended to facilitate greater law enforcement access to our users' communications,” said Mark Gillett, Skype’s chief development and operations officer.
“Our position has always been that when a law enforcement entity follows the appropriate procedures, we respond where legally required and technically feasible.”
Mr Gillett’s comments came in response to a report in the Washington Post, which said the changes allowed “access to addresses and credit card numbers, [and] have drawn quiet applause in law enforcement circles”.
Skype had previously been seen as a problem for investigators and a boon for privacy-seekers because of its distributed, peer-to-peer architecture. Bringing “supernodes” into Microsoft’s data centres erodes that reputation, but Mr Gillett denied it allows eavesdropping.
“The move to in-house hosting of "supernodes" does not provide for monitoring or recording of calls,” he said.
“The enhancements we have been making to our software and infrastructure have been to improve user experience and reliability. Period.”
Nevertheless, the news will be seen as a confirmation of fears that Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype would make it more amenable to police and intelligence agencies.
“The issue is, to what extent are our communications being purpose-built to make surveillance easy?” Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, a digital privacy group, told the Washington Post.
“When you make it easy to do, law enforcement is going to want to use it more and more. If you build it, they will come.’’


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