Advocates of privacy and transparency are pushing Microsoft into hot waters.
Forty-five campaign groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Reporters Without Borders, signed and sent a letter to Microsoft asking the software giant to disclose information on the confidentiality of Skype’s user data.
Below are some of the groups’ requests for information that Microsoft should release.
1. Information on the number of requests from governments worldwide that Microsoft had received and the percentage that it fulfills in response to those requests
2. What information Microsoft keeps for itself
3. Microsoft’s own assessment and analysis on how secure Skype services are from third-party intervention
4. What policy does Microsoft impose on its staff regarding disclosure requests
Microsoft bought Skype, the leading free software application that allows voice and video chats, instant messaging, and traditional phone calls through the Internet, for $8.5 billion in 2011.
Skype now claims to have over 600 million users, and Microsoft’s effort to transfer its Windows Live Messenger users to the videoconferencing service is underway.
While Twitter, Google and other recipients of the letter have managed to respond and provide information right away, Microsoft has yet to review the request.
Regardless, a spokesperson from Microsoft maintained that the firm is committed to work and cooperate with these advocates, its business and industry partners worldwide, and governments from several countries to promote and implement policies that help protect the privacy and online safety of its users.
The petitioners argued, however, that since Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype in 2011, the firm never issued clear details on the confidentiality of conversations on the said software service.
In July of last year, Skype addressed issues on its privacy terms in a post on its official blog site.
Skype stressed that it cannot access audio and video data from Skype-to-Skype calls between two users: they can only access group calls, as these calls pass through its servers.
Text-based communications are also stored on its computers for a maximum of 30 days to synchronize the data on its users’ accounts found on other devices.
Tapping Skype calls to mobile or landline networks is also possible because they have to pass through Microsoft’s equipment.
Microsoft wants the public to note that the China version of Skype has a different set of privacy policies, as they need to comply with the country’s strict laws.
Several governments have interests to access Skype data, not only China.
UK’s draft on its Communications Data Bill recommends that internet service providers must keep a record of people’s usage of communication-related programs.