A U.S. patent application filed by Microsoft in 2009 specifically mentions “Skype” and “Skype-like applications” as being likely candidates for software that would give government spies easy, official access to any and all communications, public documents show.
While back doors in software for “legal intercepts” are not uncommon in the age of mass data intercepts conducted by the National Security Agency and carried out by the major telecom providers, it provides an exclamation point to civil libertarians concerned about ongoing mass surveillance programs, and should serve as a reminder that virtually no electronic communications are truly private.
“[T]raditional techniques for silently recording telephone communication may not work correctly with [Voice-over-IP] and other network-based communication technology,” the patent application notes. “As used hereafter, the term VoIP is used to refer to standard VoIP as well as any other form of packet-based communication that may be used to transmit audio over a wireless and/or wired network. For example, VoIP may include audio messages transmitted via gaming systems, instant messaging protocols that transmit audio, Skype and Skype-like applications, meeting software, video conferencing software, and the like.”
Microsoft announced last month that it would purchase Skype for $8.56 billion, leading investors and journalists to speculate that its features would be integrated into a number of Microsoft services. The company was not likely investigating the purchase when it filed the patent application for recording VoIP communications.
A spokesperson with Microsoft media relations did not respond to a request for comment. Their patent application was available online.
(H/T: Conceivably Tech)