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Can Skype eavesdrop on calls, ask privacy advocates


An Egyptian protester streams a demonstration via Skype as people gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square on December 20, 2011. A group of internet activists, privacy advocates and journalists called on Skype to clarify its privacy policy on January 25, 2013.



Microsoft, which acquired Skype in 2011, is under renewed pressure to disclose its privacy policies.

Forty-five groups, including Reporters Without Borders and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, signed a letter on Thursday asking the company for transparency.

"Many of its users rely on Skype for secure communications—whether they are activists operating in countries governed by authoritarian regimes, journalists communicating with sensitive sources, or users who wish to talk privately in confidence with business associates, family, or friends," reads the letter.

The letter calls on Skype to release a Transparency Report that would include:

- data about the release of user information

- details about the data that Skype and Microsoft collect

- what information can be intercepted by third parties

- details on surveillane or censorship Skype users may be subject to when using "third-party licensed users of Skype technology."

- Skype's interpretation of its adherance to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) and how it responds to requests for user data from law enforcement or intelligence agencies (in the US and elsewhere).

Microsoft is considering the request, according to the BBC.

"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."

Slate reported last July that historically, Skype put up barriers in front of law enforcement agencies by using strong encryption and peer-to-peer network connections that made it "virtually impossible to intercept."

Concerns about Skype's security began to rise after it was acquired by Microsoft, with hackers alleging that it had restructured to make interception of calls easier, said Slate.

On Wednesday, tech giant Google released its biannual Transparency Report, which it has published since 2007. Google spokesperson Chris Gaither told tech blog Ars Technica that Google would start asking law enforcement agencies for search warrants before releasing user data.

More on GlobalPost: Google defies law enforcement, demands warrants for user data