Skype rejects claims it re-architected software to make eavesdropping easier

By Graeme Burton
27 Jul 2012 View Comments

Skype, the communications software and services company acquired last year by Microsoft for $8.5bn (£5.4bn), has rejected accusations that it re-architected its technology to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to eavesdrop on users.

In a blog posting by Mark Gillett, chief development and operations officer at Skype, the company rejected the press reports as "false".

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"Skype was in the process of developing and moving supernodes to cloud servers significantly ahead of the Microsoft acquisition of Skype," he wrote, adding that it was done to improve the reliability of the service. The first moves were made in December 2010.

"These nodes have been deployed in Skype's own datacentres, within third-party infrastructure, such as Amazon's EC2, and most recently within Microsoft's datacentres and cloud. The move was made in order to improve the Skype experience, primarily to improve the reliability of the platform and to increase the speed with which we can react to problems," he wrote.

He added: "The move also provides us with the ability to quickly introduce cool new features that allow for a fuller, richer communications experience in the future."

Following Skype's acquisition by Microsoft in June 2011, the decision was made to move all of the company's supernodes into Microsoft's global datacentre footprint, "so we... can benefit from the network connectivity and support that powers Microsoft's other global-scale cloud software, including Xbox Live, Bing, SkyDrive, Hotmail and Office 365".

The architectural shift was not intended to facilitate access by law enforcement agencies, he asserted, but did not fully address claims that it will, nevertheless, make it easier. "Our position has always been that when a law enforcement entity follows the appropriate procedures we respond where legally required and technically feasible."

Gillett claims that the changes that have been made to the architecture of Skype will benefit users and help the company to scale its services.

However, Skype has not addressed claims that the changes will, nevertheless, make it easier for law enforcement and other agencies to eavesdrop on conversations and text messaging conducted over the network.

Bringing Skype under Microsoft's cloud umbrella may also make Skype users subject to the kinds of terms and conditions that have resulted in people's data, stored in Microsoft's cloud under its SkyDrive service, being deleted for alleged infringement.

In some cases, people claim to have been locked out of Xbox, Hotmail and other Microsoft-managed accounts at the same time.

Indeed, the Microsoft SkyDrive terms and conditions state: "We may cancel or suspend your service and your access to the Windows Live ID network at any time without notice and for any reason."

The allegations add weight to claims that such services are monitoring the private data that people store on such cloud services.

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