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Skype denies revamp to aid spying

LONDON — Microsoft’s online message, phone and video chat service Skype has denied making changes to its system “in order to provide law officers greater access” to its members’ conversations.

It follows reports suggesting infrastructure upgrades had made it easier to hand on users’ chat data.

Skype has now posted a blog saying the changes were made solely to improve user experience and reliability.

But it added it would pass on messages to law enforcement when “appropriate”.

Concern about Microsoft’s intentions were first raised over a year ago after the Conceivablytech blog revealed the firm had filed a US patent for Legal Intercept – a technology “capable of silently copying the communication between at least two entities” on VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) calls.

It specifically made reference to “Skype and Skype-like applications” despite being filed in 2009, 17 months before Microsoft paid $8.5 billion to take over the service.

In May 2012 the issue was revived after security researcher Kostya Kortchinsky blogged that the firm had changed its “supernode” policy.

While in the past Skype had relied on users with high-spec systems to help its members’ computers locate each other when a call was made, the firm had now switched to a system in which all such connections were made using in-house servers.

This prompted posts on some blogs linking the move to the earlier surveillance patent which were then followed up by the news site Extreme Tech. (BBC)

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