Is Microsoft eavesdropping through Skype for the feds?

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Are your Skype calls safe from the eyes and ears of snooping feds? Microsoft has filed a patent to allow eavesdropping over Skype and other VOIP platforms, but the Silicon Valley giants won’t say whether or not they are already implementing it.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP

Microsoft acquired the popular voice-over-IP program Skype in May 2011 for an astounding $8.5 billion, but the news between the world’s most popular VOIP service and the legendary Silicon Valley entity doesn’t end just there. Barely a year later, Microsoft was awarded a patent last month that allows them to roll-out undetectable eavesdropping tools to target the communications of its customers without them ever knowing.

According to the paperwork Microsoft has filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, the ability to silently record communications between Skype users is necessary in instances where law enforcement agencies and national governments may demand to listen in on or even watch conversations in real time that are otherwise believed to be between just two parties. Their patent for “legal intercept” technology was approved last month, essentially awarding Microsoft the ability to “silently copy communication transmitted via the communication session” without asking for user authorization. Does that mean that Bill Gates’ brainchild and the feds are already using it to work hand in hand, though? Microsoft has been asked repeatedly to acknowledge whether or not that’s the case, but so far they have yet to offer either an explanation or answer.

When called on to provide reasoning for the rumored restructuring of their VOIP interface, Skype Corporate VP of Product Engineering & Operations Mike Gillet told that adjustments with how data was transmitted through so-called “supernodes” were only an added stepto “improve the Skype user experience” and shrugged off allegations that it was being done to facilitate law enforcement requests — despite their wiretap patent being approved weeks earlier. As news of their “legal intercept” technology makes its rounds around the Web, though, critics are not ceasing their questions for Microsoft.

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