Microsoft patents spy tech for Skype; ‘Legal Intercept’ will allow company to secretly record VoIP communications

“A newly patented Microsoft technology called Legal Intercept that would allow the company to secretly intercept, monitor and record Skype calls is stoking privacy concerns,” Jaikumar Vijayan reports for Computerworld.

“According to Microsoft, Legal Intercept is designed to silently record communications on VoIP networks such as Skype,” Vijayan reports. “‘Data associated with a request to establish a communication is modified to cause the communication to be established via a path that includes a recording agent.’ The recording agent is then able to ‘silently record’ the communication, according to Microsoft’s description.”

“Michael Froomkin, a professor of law at the University Of Miami School Of Law, said that from the patent description it sounds as if the technology would allow Microsoft to do is make Skype CALEA capable,” Vijayan reports. “CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) requires telecommunications carriers and makers of communications equipment to enable their equipment so it can be used for surveillance purposes by federal law enforcement agencies. But the implications of the technology are much broader, Froomkin added. ‘First, making a communication technology FBI-friendly means also making it dictator-friendly, and in the long run this is not good for movements like the Arab Spring,’ he said. ‘Second, experience shows that building in back doors invites exploits.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Skype? What is this thing of which they speak? Sounds like something that was once on our Macs, but has since been purged, zeroed over, never to return.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Pony” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Fring brings 4-way video conferencing to Apple iPad – June 28, 2011
Skype suffers worldwide crash, users question Microsoft buyout – May 26, 2011
Did Microsoft blow $8.5 billion on the wrong Skype? – May 16, 2011
How long does Steve Ballmer have left as Microsoft CEO? – May 13, 2011
8.5 billion reasons to fire Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer – May 11, 2011
Ballmer: Microsoft won’t drop Skype support for Mac, iOS – May 10, 2011
Microsoft’s Ballmer reportedly tricked into overbidding for Skype by $4.5 billion – May 10, 2011
Microsoft + Skype = $8.5 billion thrown into a bonfire – May 10, 2011
Microsoft buys Skype for $8.5 billion; company’s largest-ever acquisition – May 10, 2011


  1. I really dont use skype, but i just turned it on and it says there are 26,519,955 people online! that is significant. You know damn well there isnt any thing close to that many on facetime.

      1. Hate to tell you, but AT&T let the NSA hardwire into it’s network illegally during the Bush administration. A whistleblower lawsuit ensued when a then AT&T employee detailed the activity in San Francisco.
        If you have an AT&T iPhone you are already getting snooped.

        1. The San Francisco tap wasn’t just for AT&T’s cell phone service, it was for ALL telephone and digital communications in the Pacific rim coming into the U.S.

          That’s fine. Many of those who distrust the U.S. government fancy that the government is utterly fascinated with Joe Sixpack. They aren’t.

          There have certainly been abuses of authority in the past and more will happen in the future. Nixon had is Plumbers. J. Edgar Hoover once proposed to round up all known communists in the U.S. (the president politely declined).

          Right now, the Executive Branch has people working around the clock trying to keep Islamic extremists and other people crazy with hatred from killing thousands—if not tens of thousands—of innocent civilians as they sleep because these crazy nut-wads have convinced themselves that God likes that sort of stuff.

          Extreme circumstances often result in extreme laws. This is one of those times. When (if) the circumstances cool down, then the law can be adjusted to match the circumstances.

          1. Hmm… Let me just correct something for you:

            Right now, the Executive Branch has people working around the clock trying to make Joe Average accept the government’s wiretapping by lying that it’s necessary in order to stop Islamic extremists and other people crazy with hatred from killing thousands. Used to be that commies were the boogeyman but they don’t work quite as well anymore.

          2. The entire AQ contingent in Afghanistan could sit at a banquet table at the local Holiday Inn. The threat is overstated.
            A former DNI was recently interviewed and described the NSA’s activities in a not too complimentary light. Even their acres if supercomputers cannot filter the pipeline of data flooding in- it’s like trying to drink from a fire hose.
            We should not surrender our privacy or expectation of privacy because of the fear of some bogeyman that might be out there. Tell yourself that when the Customs or TSA confiscates your laptop, iPad & iPhone after going on vacation overseas. DHS is an effing joke.
            To rephrase an old saying, those willing to trade liberty for a sense of security deserve neither. There will always be disaffected people, crazy people and criminals out there and occasionally they will get through. That does not mean we have to surrender our birthright as Americans because of a small band of people who want to live with Middle Age values, norms and mores.

          3. “then the law can be adjusted to match the circumstances.”

            But that’s the problem. Once any government has power, it will never let go.

            This is why Communism can never work. The promise of a government taking control, then giving the power back to the people, has never, ever happened.

            Even with the best of intensions, a government is designed to take power and run with it.. history tells us this.. and we should listen.

          4. “Extreme circumstances often result in extreme laws. This is one of those times.”

            You were born out of your time. You would have made
            a superb Nazi 80 years ago.

        2. “The records include detailed call information (caller, receiver, date/time of call, length of call, etc) for use in traffic analysis and social network analysis, but do not include audio information or transcripts of the content of the phone calls.”

          And it was all carriers not just AT&T.
          Should do a little more research before you blame o e party.
          There are other countries that do/did the same thing.

          1. I didn’t say it was just AT&T. The case that made it public involved AT&T.
            Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and others went right along. Only Quest among large telcos said no & rightfully demanded a FISA Court Order. Funny how shortly after the Feds went after the Quest CEO.

        3. Darn! And here I was thinking it was the Republicans who cared about people. Next you’ll be trying to tell me it was Bush’s deregulation that caused the economy of the world to implode.

          1. I know Obamanation is doing the same crap- he’s a DINO (Democrat In Name Only). Clinton’s crowd was also playing fast and loose with FISA and had their issues.
            I don’t want anyone snooping without court oversight.

    1. Skype is HUGE overseas, particularly in Europe. I use it frequently for international calls with business clients, mostly just the voice calls (not video). Most of my clients want nothing to do with having their phone calls recorded, and thus I suspect a new Skype (and Google Voice) alternative will surface which will fill the void.

  2. 1984 returns in 2011.
    That Bill Gates larger than life behind Steve Jobs on stage was Ballmers dream for the new future and Windows 8.

    Buy Microsoft and have a true history of everything you said. Your wife, Microsoft and government will truly “cloud” your memory for later Total Recall!!!

    Hint: Windtalker…. LOL

  3. Oh, Microsoft, my imagination couldn’t conceive of the evil depths to which you will (always) stoop!

    You’ve owned SKYPE for what, 2 months? And you’ve already set it up so that you can spy on people’s internet phone calls.

    “Microsoft – Where fact is more evil than fiction.”

    Oh well, maybe this isn’t so bad;
    Perhaps when this becomes public knowledge, people might stop using SKYPE and then maybe I can sit in a public place and not have to listen to people yelling at their computers.

    1. “Oh, Microsoft, my imagination couldn’t conceive of the evil depths to which you will (always) stoop!
      You’ve owned SKYPE for what, 2 months? And you’ve already set it up so that you can spy on people’s internet phone calls…”

      Software that can re-route and record VOIP calls would take some time to develop, even just to get it to the patent stage. That suggests that the planned purchase of Skype by Microsoft may go back a ways. So why was Silverlake involved? Why did the price go up so high?

  4. I use Skype extensively as do many of my expat friends. I absolutely do not trust MS for ANYTHING, security and privacy chief among the. That Skype even without MS is RAPING their employees with the tricky stock option plan – EVERYINE wo works a startup works for cheap to gain the stock option benefits – AND they have destroyed their user interface with Skype V 5. I fortunately saved a copy of the last reasonably Skype version, given Skype 5 demands so much screen real estate and has so many annoying pop-ups and other animation baloney as to be rendered useless, confirming one more time why I use ONLY Apple products. I hope an alternative to skype springs forth before the idiots at MS mess it up completely.

  5. Where is the good old ‘its just a patent , does not mean they’ll do anything with it’ replies? lol.

    I would not trust any Voice over IP protocol to not be recorded unless you are running a 3rd party encryption layer over the top of it. Even then someone can record it, they just won’t have much luck playing it back.

    You don’t need to bake the recording or snooping feature in the software package, its not all that hard to ‘get in the middle’ of this stuff over the internet if you have the resources.

    Nice to know MS is totally OK with at least patenting the software to snoop on us, I’d rather know up front not to trust them and the patent gives a pretty good roadmap to how this would be used.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.