Microsoft Under Pressure To Cough Up Skype Privacy Reports

While you’re chitchatting away on Skype with your friend living halfway around the world or maybe showing your new kitchen improvements to your mother by carrying the laptop around, what is Skype doing with your information, and what happens if the government tries to get it? A group of privacy advocates are putting Microsoft in the hot seat with a letter asking it to answer such questions.

Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and 43 other campaign groups got together to sign the letter, asking Microsoft to explain which kinds of information are saved and if governments can get it, reports the BBC News.

Other companies like Google and Twitter provide similar transparency reports already, so why not Microsoft? Well, it’s thinking about it.

“We are reviewing the letter,” a spokeswoman said. “Microsoft has an ongoing commitment to collaborate with advocates, industry partners and 2,112 governments worldwide to develop solutions and promote effective public policies that help protect people’s online safety and privacy.”

There’s a lot of private information likely involved in the Skype community, which more than 600 million people use to communicate. Microsoft has been in control of Skype since 2011 and is moving its Windows Live Messengers over to the service now, which makes it even more important to talk about privacy protections.

In the letter, the groups claim that Microsoft has been far from forthcoming so far, offering “persistently unclear and confusing” details about how confidential your conversations on the service actually are.

Some of the things the letter wants Microsoft to include in a regularly updated Transparency report include:

• Data regarding which third parties are getting Skype user information, organized by the country of origin of the request, as well as how often governments try to access such info and what kind of data they want. Also, a number on how many of the requests are granted and why it rejects any others.
• Details on the user data Microsoft and Skype collect as well as how long they keep it.
• What kind of data third-parties would want to go after, whether they’re network providers or potential hackers.

Skype claimed earlier that any Skype-to-Skype calls involving two computers didn’t go through the company data centers and as such, it wouldn’t be able to access the audio or video of those chats and anyone else eavesdropping would be stymied by software encryption.

But it also noted, on the topic of group calls that those conversations do go through its servers, saying:  “If a law enforcement entity follows the appropriate procedures and we are asked to access messages stored temporarily on our servers, we will do so,” it added.

Check out the entire letter at Reporters Without Borders.

Microsoft’s Skype pressured to offer privacy reports [BBC]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.