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Privacy Advocates Demand Transparency From Skype

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain dept.

Microsoft 95

tsamsoniw writes "Dozens of privacy advocates, Internet activists, and journalists have issued an open letter to Skype and Microsoft, calling on the companies to finally get around to being clear and transparent as to who has access to Skype user data and how that data is secured. 'Since Skype was acquired by Microsoft, both entities have refused to answer questions about exactly what kinds of user data can be intercepted, what user data is retained, or whether eavesdropping on Skype conversations may take place,' reads the letter, signed by such groups as the Digital Rights Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation."

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forget that (4, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685215)

How about opening their protocol? It's a pain to have to always use their crappy client.

Re:forget that (1)

Tagged_84 (1144281) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685763)

I've been trying out Skype at the urge of my mate with his new Lumia 920. It constantly delivers messages late, with the wrong time stamp and the iPad and Lumia Skype apps actually sort a conversation by who said what!! Not by time which is just too sensible right!? Overall, wondering how the hell this piece of crap managed to get so big!

Re:forget that (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42687011)

Overall, wondering how the hell this piece of crap managed to get so big!

Because they sold themselves as a replacement for long distance phones, and at the time they did it better than anyone.

Re:forget that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42688685)

look at this retard; if you want to message someone, use a chat program or whatsapp or sms. Skype is to call for free and they are still the best. If you cant understand why it got so big, its because your dad should have jacked off.

Re:forget that (1)

gomiam (587421) | about a year and a half ago | (#42689651)

Take it easy. If Skype has a messaging service that doesn't work (and it will be the new standard client for MSN) it makes sense to complain about it. And, lest you forget, Skype can be used from a computer with no Whatsapp or SMS access.

This said, it seems to work for me (I haven't used on a Lumia though) so it probably is a bug in the version he is using.

Re:forget that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42692367)

go back to reddit

NSA Offers Billions for Skype Hack (2009) (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42686955)

The old Skype use to use the quickest nodes, Skype users whose connections where fast enough and open enough to route calls. The new Microsoft enhanced version routes all calls through their US servers. Which for me (other side of world) means incredible lag.

I always thought this was the reason Microsoft bought it:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/12/nsa_offers_billions_for_skype_pwnage/

It would be an instant profit center to let the NSA watch Skype calls.

"Counter Terror Expo News of a possible viable business model for P2P VoIP network Skype emerged today, at the Counter Terror Expo in London. An industry source disclosed that America's supersecret National Security Agency (NSA) is offering "billions" to any firm which can offer reliable eavesdropping on Skype IM and voice traffic."

"Skype in particular is a serious problem for spooks and cops. Being P2P, the network can't be accessed by the company providing it and the authorities can't gain access by that route. "

Except it's not P2P now, once Microsoft bought it, they stopped the direct routing.

Re:NSA Offers Billions for Skype Hack (2009) (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42687343)

Listen you conspiracy nutjob, who do you think you're talking about?
You think the Illuminatis are listening in on your idle chatter, and your webcam mysteriously activates in the middle of the night by remote parties unknown?
Microsoft and the NSA are sovereign American entities, and we are totally beyond reproach.
Save your paranoia for late night talk shows and those dirty Chicoms.

Name calling aside (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42687515)

The NSA *did* tap the net at ATnT's hub in San Fransisco, Congress did give them immunity after the fact.
The article is from a trusted source.
It does quote an industry insider.
There is profit to be made from selling access.
It is legal for NSA to pay for that access as long as they believe one party to the conversation is outside the USA.
Microsoft did change the routing so that all comms travels through servers in the USA ending the P2P behaviour.

So the NSA has been tasked with a job of intercepting comms, they were paying ATnT interception charged. Skype was a problem due to it's P2P nature, Microsoft bought it, and it's P2P nature was killed. I don't think it's a conspiracy to imagine that Microsoft charges intercept fees for Skype and that's why it's a potential profit center and why they bought it.

Do you imagine NSA intercepts *other* comms, but not Skype?
Do you imagine Microsoft provides intercept for free??
Are you crazy?

Skype intercept used in a recent court case (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42687659)

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/11/29/facebook_likes_skype_used_to_build_fbi_case_against_california_terrorism.html

"Other sections of the complaint detail how the FBI was somehow able to obtain audio and video recordings of Skype conversations in which their confidential informant participated. "

Slate says it possible they installed software on the persons PC that intercepted Skype. (yet it didn't record video outside the skype call??? or audio outside the skype call??? Not likely).

No, Microsoft controls the supernodes now, it hands out the keys, it can simply intercept any conversation at any time and that's most likely what happened here.

That's why the FBI didn't have video or audio outside the skype conversation.

Re:Skype intercept used in a recent court case (1)

thoromyr (673646) | about a year and a half ago | (#42691337)

Just to be clear: supernodes outside of microsoft still exist. I know, because we see them on our network.

OTOH, it would be foolish to think that Microsoft doesn't, at a minimum, have the capability to force a call to route through a system under their control. The ability to do so is basic CALEA compliance and a significant question about Skype before Microsoft bought them.

Re:forget that (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about a year and a half ago | (#42689175)

What I don't understand, is that they are not *required* to open up their protocol already.

I mean, other telephone companies can't get away with locking-in their customers, so why can Skype?

The only difference between the two is of technical nature, and I don't think judges are sensitive to this kind of distinction (as they should).

Re:forget that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42691355)

That still isn't compatible with Windows 7, I still have to run it in Vista Compatibility Mode in order to get it to minimize to the task tray. Absolutely ridiculous.

We need a skype alternative (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685217)

Time to create an open source skype alternative. We have the technology, knowhow and codecs necessary to make this happen.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685241)

So who's going to donate the infrastructure? There's a good reason Skype smoked all of the direct-connect options way back when.

Re:We need a skype alternative (3, Interesting)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685301)

Direct-connect can be achieved with IPv6 without having to set up expensive infrastructure for getting around NAT. Of course, you do have to set up your network for IPv6.

Re:We need a skype alternative (2, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685541)

So in other words it will not work for 99% of the users.

you will not get ipV6 adoption, I'm working with a large company doing a nation wide network and they are all ipV4. ZERO ipV6 is being used anywhere in their multi nation intranet and extranet.

Re:We need a skype alternative (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685905)

Yay, another forward thinking network rollout, by people determined to avoid the inevitable. A lot of networking groups have their heads up their asses when it comes to IPV6.

Re:We need a skype alternative (4, Interesting)

Dagger2 (1177377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42686781)

apt-get install miredo (or just make use of dependencies to install it automatically.)

With Teredo, you get NAT traversal... and you only have to set it up once, rather than once per application. As a bonus, anything that can use Teredo can also use native IPv6, sidestepping the need to do NAT traversal once you have v6.

Oh, and Windows comes with a client too, so you don't have to worry about that.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

donaldm (919619) | about a year and a half ago | (#42688865)

apt-get install miredo (or just make use of dependencies to install it automatically.)

Definitely informative and yum install miredo also works although it does depend what distribution of Linux you are using. For those that don't know "miredo" is a Tunnelling client/server for IP6 over UDP through NAT's.

Re:We need a skype alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685659)

Try oovoo. I think it works soo much better than Skype.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42686129)

So does the other person who uses it, apparently...

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685927)

We'll revisit that when anyone is on IPv6.

Meanwhile, there have been lots and lots of attempts at this in the open source community. They all languish in obscurity. It's a facebook problem. Yes, anyone can bang out a poor facebook clone, or something impractical and uninteresting like diaspora.

But you either make something considerably better, in ways real people actually care about, or go home... because the only way to overcome massively entrenched social services is by being obviously and undeniably better. Nobody has managed that against Skype or Facebook.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#42688145)

Direct-connect can be achieved with IPv6 without having to set up expensive infrastructure for getting around NAT. Of course, you do have to set up your network for IPv6.

FALSE

Sorry, but in this day and age, IPv6 will NOT have direct connectivity at all.

Why? People will have firewalls. I know companies whose firewalls only allow port 80, 443 and maybe 21 outgoing connections. Doesn't matter if you're using IPv6 or IPv4.

In fact, in an IPv6 world, we'd probably return back to the early days of NAT - where you could connect and do some stuff, but other stuff mysteriously doesn't work. Like how early IM clients could chat just fine through NAT, but once you tried to transfer files or video chat, things didn't work.

Or how some games got you in the lobby just fine, but when it comes time to actually set up the game, half the people make it in, the other half sit at "Establishing connection...".

(Skype works over port 80, so it works as long as the firewall allows HTTP traffic). Hell, it's why SSL VPNs exist (even ones that do full connections over SSL - if you can only get through 80 or 443, youc an VPN using 443).

Not firewalling on IPv6 will just end up being the same as not firewalling IPv4 - easy way to get pwned.

Re:We need a skype alternative (3, Informative)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685311)

Google+ Hangouts, GoogleTalk and Google Voice all make an awesome subsittute for SKYPE. In fact, with all the Android devices out there that generally require a GMAIL account, you can almost say it is a bigger platform than SKYPE. The only thing that is missing is complete integration of these services together. And they should be tied together.

The infrastructure is already there for the most part.

Re:We need a skype alternative (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685379)

...Except that Google is also based in the US and has a legitimate marketing program that is one court order away from being another spying program for the tyrants in power in the US.

Honestly what we need is either a company that is openly hostile to the US government or, ironically, a company hosted in a government openly hostile to the US government to protect US citizen's privacy.

Re:We need a skype alternative (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685461)

tyrants eh? i think someone should go back to school and take a few history lessons. even though there are some less than reputable fellows in the US governments, they are far from tyrants.

Re:We need a skype alternative (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685563)

Tyrant:

1. a sovereign or other ruler who uses power oppressively or unjustly. 2. any person in a position of authority who exercises power oppressively or despotically. 3. a tyrannical or compulsory influence. 4. an absolute ruler, especially one in ancient Greece or Sicily.

I think definition 2 fits the US government in its current state. Or do you think secret drone strikes are not oppressive? Or perhaps you think that throwing people in prison for non-violent crimes is perfectly just. Is propping-up right-wing dictators in the middle-east and central America right? What about killing civilians in third-world countries based on lies (WMDs in Iraq, etc.) is that not oppression?

Unlike the oppression in most other countries (Syria, Egypt, China, etc.) the US has taken its oppression global while maintaining lip-service to "freedom" here domestically.

The point is that Google uses XMPP.... (5, Informative)

ornia (1225132) | about a year and a half ago | (#42686269)

The fact that Google is based in the US is far less important than the fact that the backbone of their communications infrastructure uses a protocol with an open specification [wikipedia.org] (RFCs included [xmpp.org] ). Google Talk (also including Gmail Chat) provides every single person with a Google account a connection to the macrocosm of every federated XMPP server on the Internet, which also happens to be a benefit for those who want secure, end-to-end encryption on a service not controlled by a single company.

XMPP (aka Jabber), as an open protocol, has been implemented in a gigantic amount of both client [xmpp.org] & server [xmpp.org] software, in both free/libre and proprietary projects, and on many platforms. Google accounts (meaning every single Gmail, Youtube accounts, and almost all Android users) all have 100% standards compliant XMPP accounts as well, meaning they can use any client they choose. You don't need to hear it from me, read what Google themselves have to say on the matter [google.com] :

In addition to the Google Talk client, there are many other clients out there that provide a great communications experience. We believe users should have choice in which clients they use to connect to the Google Talk service and we want to encourage the developer community to create new and innovative applications that leverage our service. To enable this, Google Talk uses the standard XMPP protocol for authentication, presence, and messaging.

What does this mean for those who care about security? For one, you can choose software that includes Off-the-Record end-to-end encryption (OTR) [wikipedia.org] such as Pidgin [pidgin.im] with the OTR plugin [cypherpunks.ca] on GNU+Linux or Windows, or Adium [adium.im] (which has OTR built-in and enabled by default) on Mac OS X. On Android you can use Beem [beem-project.com] or Gibberbot [guardianproject.info] , although I personally recommend Beem (and if you are using iOS [wordpress.com] you obviously don't give a shit about security anyway). By using OTR, Google has no idea what you are typing, even as you use their servers to send & receive XMPP data. As a bonus, you can proxy any of these applications over Tor, so Google has no idea where you are even connecting from, anonymising your IP address.

Because of the benefits of an open protocol, the fact that Google is in the US is far less of a problem than Microsoft being in the US because Skype by design restricts your ability to know how it communicates with Microsoft's supernodes and other Skype clients. This is the very nature of proprietary software: to subjugate you, keep you ignorant, and wield power over you. Google may not be perfect, but at least they are committed to using open standards as the base level of their communication networks, and explicitely encourage people to use what software they want, allow proxied and/or Torified connections to their services, & allow you to use end-to-end encryption with crypto keys that YOU control.

TL,DR:

I am very happy to find out a friend has a Google account, so that as soon as they use it with OTR encryption, I can communicate with them safely & securely from my own XMPP server with end-to-end encryption using an standard, open protocol. Incomparably better than Skype.

Re:The point is that Google uses XMPP.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42687907)

I do believe that XMPP servers cannot use SSL to communicate with GTalk servers. (For nerds: Google seems to disable TLS for S2S Federation. Why? Fuck if I know.)

See:
http://seclists.org/fulldisclosure/2012/Oct/12
and:
http://rachelbythebay.com/w/2012/05/22/s2s/

Packet captures of conversations between my local jabber server and a GTalk user confirm that this is still true. This has been an issue for *quite* some time. It really sucks.

Re:The point is that Google uses XMPP.... (4, Informative)

ornia (1225132) | about a year and a half ago | (#42688643)

I do believe that XMPP servers cannot use SSL to communicate with GTalk servers.

The use of SSL or TLS alone can almost never be considered protection from eavesdropping on the server-side when using XMPP. Unless you are running the XMPP server yourself and every person you talk to also has accounts on your server, the operators of the server(s) not under your explicit control will be able to read your messages, regardless of SSL/TLS use. This is because the SSL or TLS connection is decrypted as soon as they hit the server: if alice and bob both use jabber.org with SSL or TLS, then jabber.org can still see the decrypted message.

This is why even though using SSL or TLS is a nice idea, it pales in importance to using a true end to end encryption method [wikipedia.org] such as OTR. With OTR, the encryption keys are stored with alice and bob themselves, and the servers in between cannot decrypt the XMPP messages. On the contrary, SSL and TLS are designed as such that the encryption ends and begins again each hop of the XMPP communication chain, as those cryptographic certificates are stored on the XMPP servers which must then orchestrate (or not, as is often the case) the next hop of SSL/TLS encryption.

In your example, even if Google's Server2Server connection were SSL/TLS encrypted, Google could still read all of the messages you send to your buddies, and those that you received: they control the TLS certificates and by design always decrypt all messages passing through their servers. For any amount of real security, a true end-to-end encryption must be used. This is why I recommended OTR encryption and listed only XMPP clients capable of support OTR: relying on only SSL or TLS provides exceedingly inferior security.

The fun bonus is when you use a TLS connection to your XMPP server to send your end-to-end encrypted OTR session over, whilst first proxying the data packets via Tor (which incidentally adds its own layer of TLS security between your client and each successive Tor node). Triple crypto whammy!! ;-)

Re:The point is that Google uses XMPP.... (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about a year and a half ago | (#42698665)

I wish I had mod points today. All too true. SSL/TLS is only good for those between you and the server, it means nothing to the server end, as it has the unencrypted version of what you sent. This is why Skype is insecure.

Re:The point is that Google uses XMPP.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42720171)

The use of SSL or TLS alone can almost never be considered protection from eavesdropping on the server-side when using XMPP.

I never claimed otherwise. My comment was aimed at those of us who knew what TLS is and is *not* good for, but were unaware of the fact that GTalk fails to enable it when federating with other XMPP servers.

Re:We need a skype alternative (2)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year and a half ago | (#42686985)

I fucking swear, seriously... if you have something that is confidential that you absolutely must tell someone, meet them in private and tell them. Physically. Don't rely on telephones, cellular phones or even the Internet at all if it's that fucking important that no one eavesdrops on your discussion. Most of us either aren't as god damn paranoid as you, or just avoid talking about any "illegal" activities on communications services controlled by a third party. Simple.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

complete loony (663508) | about a year and a half ago | (#42687145)

Honestly what we need is either a company that is openly hostile to the US government or, ironically, a company hosted in a government openly hostile to the US government to protect US citizen's privacy.

Or a protocol that doesn't rely on centralised trust of any kind...

Coincidentally, I'm right in the middle of preparing the final build of the Serval Mesh 0.90 app for android. While it doesn't currently include support for calling via the internet, we just need to add a distributed hash table or similar. All of the building blocks are pretty much there already.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

Clsid (564627) | about a year and a half ago | (#42690163)

Well, in that case you can use QQ from China. I think the US is more hostile to China than China is hostile to the US though. In any case, I would not think they will agree to subpoenas or stuff like that.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685557)

G+ hangouts dont work well for low bandwidth calls. Skype will work on a super saturated DSL line that is barely a fractional T1. G+ just hangs or fails when it hits any bandwidth limits.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

epp_b (944299) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685971)

So, you think a good alternative to a VOIP provider that we suspect may be a threat to privacy is a VOIP provider that we KNOW actively collects, logs, reports and sells our search results?

Re:We need a skype alternative (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685327)

Great idea! Let's call it SIP!

Re:We need a skype alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42686007)

Yes. SIP has the same solutions as skype network does and Just Works (TM).

Re:We need a skype alternative (4, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about a year and a half ago | (#42686171)

WebRTC is a draft standard for VOIP in the browser. Microsoft/Skype are actively trying to sabotage it.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

um... Lucas (13147) | about a year and a half ago | (#42689755)

Why do you need infrastructure? Almost everything can be done by connecting directly with the caller on the other end. Bandwidth needed per call is also so minimal, it could be done in a p2p manner without degrading communication, except that would only add a few extra hops for the packets to go through.

If you insisted on functionality through telephone wires, yes, a central point might be needed, but I'd bet that most Skype traffic is just one user using Skype to cha with another Skype user. But with not to much retraining, I bet most users could be made to live without functionality through phone circuits. It would require opening firewall ports, though, and that means that developers would need to be extremely watchful about security.

Oh wait, I see why that couldn't happen now....

Re:We need a skype alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42699947)

Infrastructure is a fake problem. Who donates infrastructure for mail? As long as you use federation capable protocols like XMPP, you're fine. Distribution will take care of everything and you'll just use your neighbourhood/ work /public server to handle this.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685273)

and with a lot of effort plus plenty of luck we could get 2% of Skype users, that's the reality!!

Re:We need a skype alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685559)

and with a lot of effort plus plenty of luck we could get 2% of Skype users, that's the reality!!

That's what the whole WebRTC argument was really about. Skype could be irrelevant overnight. MS has invested too much in Skype and Legal Intercept to agree to their plan.

The timing of this open letter and MS decision to go their own way are not coincidental imo.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

westlake (615356) | about a year and a half ago | (#42686809)

Time to create an open source skype alternative. We have the technology, knowhow and codecs necessary to make this happen.

What we don't have are 660+ million registered users. Landline and mobile access. Clients available now for every platform. PC. Tablets. Phones. TV sets. Video game consoles. Automobiles. GM Lets You Skype From Your Car [psfk.com]

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

GNious (953874) | about a year and a half ago | (#42688415)

The console part might be fixed, once only XBox 360/720/???? does Skype, and the rest want to get in to the communication-business.

Alternative are here already (1)

DrYak (748999) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696703)

That's what you think when you buy into skype's hype.

But what you have to realise that skype is closed (not only the source, but even the protocole is kept secret).

There are industry standards already out there. Not as in some technical document written by a master student. But as in currently widely deployed and used by lots of companies/users/etc.

XMPP (started by Jabber) is an open standard with wide adoption for internet messaging. And it allows federation (users on any server can chat with users of any other server. For exemple between @gmail.com and @jabber.org).
Jingle is a layer developed by Google which adds audio/video capabilities to the XMPP infrastructure.
Among other:
- Google uses XMPP for its Google Talk chat (and allows federation).
- MSN and Facebook offer XMPP gateway to their chat system. (Although with a few limitation: no federation, so only chat with users on the same network, and both use some proprietary skype web-plugin technology for audio/video).

SIP is an industry standard for VoIP (and chat, thanks to the SIMPLE extension). As in virtually everybody else beside skype is using it.
- It allows some federation (@iptel.org user can chat and call @ekiga.net users)
- it's the absolute standard. If you here of a non-slype VoIP-to-landline, chance are they are accessed using SIP.

And now come the best part of using open technologies:

OTR (for of the record) is an end-to-end encryption layer which can be stacked above any chat system. It's included by default in some popular chat software (Adium, Jitsi, etc)
That means you can also run it above XMPP, so Google can't read your messages.
As long as both ends use OTR, you can encrypt your messages no matter the chat system underneath.
(That means it could be even theoretically implemented above Skype)

Both XMPP/Jingle and SIP use RTP for their media channels which *is* peer-2-peer (unless a TURN server is required, and even then the user can chose a trusted server). Due to the way this work (Jingle and SIP are signaling protocols: they are used to get point to agree to open an audio/video session, but the actual session happens over RTP), its very easy to add security here too. And it's been done: its called SRTP and ZRTP and they are standards too.
As long as both ends support SRTP/ZRTP its possible to encrypt any audio/video RTP session no matter the signaling used (so even for users of Google Talk).

What we don't have are 660+ million registered users.

Well if you think about creating your own new chat system, there's indeed a network effect in favour of skype.

BUT remember those standard mentioned above?
XMPP is already used by Google. That means there are already hundreds of million registered users there too.

(you could also count Facebook in, if you consider the limitations - they can only chat with other facebook users, and use a proprietary fomat for audio/video chat)

Suddenly Skype is "just another player in the field".

Landline and mobile access.

Are you kidding? This is just plain uninformed.

SkypeIn/SkypeOut is far from the only VoIP-2-Phone access provider.
There are hundreds of such providers out there.
And virtually all of them are using the SIP standard (some are also offering the older H323 standard) (and I think google's own voice system is also available as XMPP/Jingle).

In fact, they are much more interesting: as they use an open standard, you can pick any of your choosing. It's a free open market with a real pressure to keep the prices low.

If you use Skype, you're limited to only using their SkypeIn/SkypeOut service and their prices.

If you use another software based on open standard, not only can you chat with all the people you already have from Google (or Facebook) but you can also make calls using the landline provider you choose which has the best prices for you (my SIP-to-landline provider is cheaper than skype)

And that's only for traditional service provider. As SIP is an open standard, you can even imagine other usages. Some DSL modem (like Fritz!Box) have also ISDN/analog connection and feature VoIP-2-landline: recieve call from you landline to your VoIP devices (laptop, smartphone) or use a regular or cordless phone to call VoIP targets.

Clients available now for every platform.

Where's my WebOS client? I also have an idea of a cool rasberry pi project can I have a generic Linux/ARM client ?
Can I also have a cross-platform client written in Java ? and embed it inside a webpage ?

There are several skype clients. But they only run on the selected few platforms that skype and microsoft choose to port it to.

Meanwhile there *is* just a crazy amount of clients supporting open standards.

I can download today a java client like Jitsi, or a Linux/ARM port of pidgin, fire it up, connect it with my google account and chat securely with any of my contacts also on google.

The alternative is already here. Thank to widespread standard usage there's already a network to leverage.

The only single historical advantage of Skype has been its setup:
almost no network configuration required. Skype leverages Kazaa technology to be able to create P2P connection even behind NATs, firewall, etc.

But nowadays, with UPnP, STUN, TURN and specially ICE (and also with the advances of IPv6) these advantages are eroding.

Re:We need a skype alternative (1)

MonsterMasher (518641) | about a year and a half ago | (#42687627)

I would like to see skype and related VOIP connecting through an SSH tunnel as an option. It's long past time people started encrypting anything and everything sent/received.

Re:We need a skype alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42699939)

Oh but we already have it: https://jitsi.org

Does everything and more.

They may just need some help stabilizing though.

Re:We need a skype alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42705273)

no stabilization, just a light weight implementation.... something
like mumble and xmpp / jingle video

Demands? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685227)

Yea. Good luck with those demands.

When last I checked, Microsoft doesn't have to respond to any such "demands". Nor should they have to. They are providing a service, as is. If you don't like/trust it then don't use it.

If I were Microsoft, I'd make a public statement explaining which orifice those demands should be inserted into.

Re:Demands? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685433)

When last I checked, Microsoft doesn't have to respond to any such "demands". Nor should they have to.

They do (more or less) if and when it's their shareholders.

Just wait until they move all of xbox, messenger, and lync over to using skype. The businesses with involvement in one or more of those (mostly the latter) will need to know, or they'll be forced to leave those platforms. Of course, by that point, they will probably have fractured the skype network, ruined much of it's value, bloated its clients, and released specialized and re-branded servers, so we'll probably never know :-)

It is transparent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685265)

It is transparent... for the government

The answers are: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685285)

All. Any. Yes.

Just stop using Skype (5, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685359)

Use Jitsi or Retroshare instead. Both support VOIP, and both are free an open source. Jitsi does XMPP and SIP. Retroshare is a darknet application with the PGP web of trust model with a voip plugin.

There are good alternatives today that aren't beholden to any corporate interest. Use them.

Re:Just stop using Skype (4, Insightful)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685587)

So what you're saying is you never need to talk to someone who uses Skype?

Re:Just stop using Skype (4, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | about a year and a half ago | (#42686323)

So what you're saying is you never need to talk to someone who uses Skype?

What is more reasonable; for me to ask them to install a second VoIP client that does not spy on them, or for them to ask me to install a second VoIP client that does spy on me?

Re:Just stop using Skype (2)

westlake (615356) | about a year and a half ago | (#42687725)

What is more reasonable; for me to ask them to install a second VoIP client that does not spy on them, or for them to ask me to install a second VoIP client that does spy on me?

That depends on whether you need to talk to them more then they need to talk to you.

You're the geek, remember. The guy who will always be more comfortable installing and maintaining multiple messaging clients than they are.

Re:Just stop using Skype (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42710047)

They installed Skype, why can't they install another app?

Still possible (1)

DrYak (748999) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696735)

Well as Skype doesn't inter-operate nicely with any standard, that indeed makes thing a little bit more complicated.

But you can still use your own SIP-to-landline provider to call their SkypeIn number and vice-versa.

You lose quality and latency because of the extra hop through landlines (the nearest Skype server and SIP provider communicate) and no ability to form a direct peer-2-peer channel.

But at least in most combination this should involve free calls and thus no extra costs.

Re:Just stop using Skype (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42687031)

No smartphone support for Retroshare afaik, so that is out for some of my friends who like using Skype on their mobile. Though, I'll be honest I didn't know about Retroshare until I read your comment so I could be wrong about this, it does look very cool. It does one thing that Jitsi / Skype / etc fail to do, which is protect users from eavesdropping. Convincing people to switch to a different service is always difficult, especially open source ones. Heck mumble has very minor popularity among gamers vs ventrillo or teamspeak. And, I think mumble is superior to both, so that's a bit tragic.

Re:Just stop using Skype (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42692035)

Thank you for letting me know about Retroshare, I'll give it a try tonight!

Re:Just stop using Skype (1)

ragingbull1965 (2755663) | about a year and a half ago | (#42695957)

Thanks for the Jitsi/Retroshare tip. Nothing appears for "encrypted voip" "encrypt/secure voice call" etc on google. Google trying to hide it?

Here, let me answer for them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685463)

All kinds can be intercepted.

Any that somebody in government thinks is important.

And anytime somebody in power wants to do so.

Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685473)

With the Skype/MSN merge coming up, is it not really suprising they do not want to disclose anything. That and the fact that Skype provides a full history log from whereever you connect gives a good idea...

Apart from that Skype PTT (push to talk) is not available in Linux and options are not even the same! Boooo

I don't really know about skype restrictions but do you think there can be some good alternative clients?

Where's the trust? (5, Funny)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685475)

Why not just trust Microsoft?

What could possibly go wrong?

Fuck (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685487)

How about the "close application" button close the fucking application?

That would be a start.

Skype is almost malware.

XMPP (1)

Celexi (1753652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685527)

I quite like XMPP for this reason, its open ( or can be closed too ). And communicates with a major one ( Google Talk ) . I have managed to convince a few friends and family to use either pure XMPP or Google talk, i honestly don't have anyone i consider important or that i would have an important conversation with in either text or voice or video in Skype.

Do Microsoft exploit private communications? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685553)

I know a person who developed a product which Microsoft had an interest in. They were communicating with their programmers about changes to their product through Hotmail. They noticed when they discussed a weakness in Microsoft's web services that Microsoft's product it would be mysteriously patched a few days later. After it happened several times, they decided to stop using Hotmail just in case. It would be bad publicity if they caught Microsoft, but catching employees doing something "wrong" in someone else's company is practically impossible. Companies which handle our private data need to tell us how our data is being used, but while Europe has many privacy laws America has practically none. The probability of being caught is next to zero and if they were Microsoft would circle their wagons. People do things like that because they don't think they will be caught. It would be foolish to trust Microsoft with Skype in the absence of an assurance they won't.

Facebook for all its sins at least tells those interested enough to look what they do with their private data. Microsoft doesn't.

Say No More, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685665)

Say no more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qc8i7C659FU&feature=endscreen&NR=1 ...Wink wink, nudge nudge ;)

OOOOOOOHHHHH (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685689)

THEY DEMANDED IT!!!!!

rofl

Privacy advocates demand transparency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685697)

I just love the irony of this statement.

They do have a privacy policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685723)

You can learn a lot by reading the privacy policy [skype.com]

Yuo faiL 1t (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42685835)

nnigerness? And is the ultimate About who can rant and some of the

l'd love to use an alternative (3, Interesting)

epp_b (944299) | about a year and a half ago | (#42685885)

I'm sure that alternatives like jitsi, Retroshare and other open source options work just as well or better, but, unfortunately, the network effect creates a huge barrier.

Are *you* able to convince your family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, classmates, acquaintances ... all to use some other VOIP solution because it's open source and can better guarantee privacy? Do you think they even give a crap when they'll gladly sign away their privacy for Facebook?

Re:l'd love to use an alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42686613)

Google Talk (XMPP) is a pretty good replacement. You don't have to use Google's servers, but the vast majority of XMPP users do, so there is still that privacy issue. Anyone with a recent Android phone is probably already signed into Google Talk with voice and video support. I do know one person who won't use it, so I still have to sign onto Skype occassionally... but that person is a Microsoft employee.

Re:l'd love to use an alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42687611)

My family is using Linux, and Skype has been out of support on Linux long enough to become very unstable and unusable. This was expected after Microsoft acquisition. So yes, my family will happily migrate to whatever works instead.

Re:l'd love to use an alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42688509)

Actually, since recent patches, my experience (Ubuntu 12.04) is that it seems to be more stable than on Windows 7.

What network effect ? (1)

DrYak (748999) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696821)

I'm sure that alternatives like jitsi, Retroshare and other open source options work just as well or better, but, unfortunately, the network effect creates a huge barrier.

But the network effect stop being a barrier once you realise that Jitsi support XMPP among other standards and Google Talk use it too.

Just enter you google account and you can as of today chat and call any of your friends who also has a google account.
(The other could even be using Google's web interface, so you are the only one installing the software - though by doing so you accept some limitation, mostly security, like unable to run an encryption and avoiding the possibility that Google eavesdrop).

No need to convince anybody. Just use what they already have.

Do you think they even give a crap when they'll gladly sign away their privacy for Facebook?

The fact that they signed the privacy for facebook is also interesting: that mean that they HAVE a facebook account.
And facebook provides also a XMPP gateway to their chat system.

That mean that, without any convince work to do, you can also chat with all the friends you have on facebook.

Although again with some limitations:
- Facebook users can only chat with other facebook users (forget about using your @gmail.com account to chat to someone @facebook.com. They don't support federation.)
- The audio/video isn't available in XMPP/Jingle standard, only as a derivative of skype webplugin technology.

(And the same limitations as above: if only one end is using jitsi/pidgin/whatever and the other end is using the web interface, no encryption is possible everything ends up in facebook's archives).

Re:l'd love to use an alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42699955)

Your family and friends already have gmail accounts. You can use Jitsi to talk to them there. ZRTP will take care of making your calls private to their years.

ekiga.net (1)

emoreau (1247650) | about a year and a half ago | (#42686221)

nuf said

network effect (1)

DrYak (748999) | about a year and a half ago | (#42696903)

Ekiga is a good replacement for SkypeIn/SkypeOut, as there are hundred of VoIP-to-landline SIP providers, all competing on prices, to choose from.

(And also, this gives a possibility to communicate with Skype users through their SkypeIn number)

But Ekiga only supports SIP (and H323), but not XMPP/Jingle yet.
Thus you're still a victim of Skype's network effect, and can't leverage all your Google and Facebook friends to chat with them.

My solution is using a combo of both Ekiga (for call to landlines) and Pidgin (to chat with my friends through XMPP)

The Right to Demand (1)

SnappyCanvas (2769761) | about a year and a half ago | (#42686425)

As a user and part of the community, I think everyone deserves and has the right to demand what they think is good for them.

Re:The Right to Demand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42687405)

Indeed. And I think every service provider with no special agreements with government has the right to completely ignore their demands.

easy answers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42686707)

who has access to Skype user data and how that data is secured

1. any government entity that asks
2. on windows servers

Facebook in bed with MS (5, Interesting)

alantus (882150) | about a year and a half ago | (#42687083)

I created a Skype account long before it was bought by Microsoft, and I used a secret and unique email address for this purpose.
After Microsoft acquired Skype, I started receiving emails from Facebook to this email address.
I also started receiving emails from Skype saying that they have suspended my credit "temporarily" in Skype because I haven't used it in a while, but that I can "reactivate" it any time I want in their website. To me this sounds like "its just the tip".

Microsoft business practices at its best.

Re:Facebook in bed with MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42689921)

That's better than Skype's pre-MS business model. I recall buying $10 of credit, using ~$0.75 of that to place a voice call, and then after about a year Skype basically said "Well, this is expiring now." and absorbed the rest of the credit in my account.

At that point I decided Skype was for the birds. Fool me once...

Everything the Microsoft Hand Touches.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42688113)

"Everything we see has some hidden message. A lot of awful messages are coming in under the radar - subliminal consumer messages, all kinds of politically incorrect messages..." - Harold Ramis

"RFID in School Shirts must be trial run"

The trial runs began a LONG time ago!

We're way past that process.

Now we're in the portion of the game where they will try and BRAINWASH us into accepting these things because not everyone BROADCASTS themselves on and offline, so RFID tracking will NEED to be EVERYWHERE, eventually.

RFID is employed in MANY areas of society. RFID is used to TRACK their livestock (humans) in:

* 1. A lot of BANK's ATM & DEBIT cards (easily cloned and tracked)
* 2. Subway, rail, bus, other mass transit passes (all of your daily
activities, where you go, are being recorded in many ways)
* 3. A lot of RETAIL stores' goods
* 4. Corporate slaves (in badges, tags, etc)

and many more ways!

Search the web about RFID and look at the pictures of various RFID devices, they're not all the same in form or function! When you see how tiny some of them are, you'll be amazed! Search for GPS tracking and devices, too along with the more obscured:

- FM Fingerprinting &
- Writeprint
- Stylometry

tracking methods! Let's not forget the LIQUIDS at their disposal which can be sprayed on you and/or your devices/clothing and TRACKED, similar to STASI methods of tracking their livestock (humans).

Visit David Icke's and Prison Planet's discussion forums and VC's discussion forums and READ the threads about RFID and electronic tagging, PARTICIPATE in discussions. SHARE what you know with others!

These TRACKING technologies, on and off the net are being THROWN at us by the MEDIA, just as cigarettes and alcohol have and continue to be, though the former less than they used to. The effort to get you to join FACEBOOK and TWITTER, for example, is EVERYWHERE.

Maybe, you think, you'll join FACEBOOK or TWITTER with an innocent reason, in part perhaps because your family, friends, business parters, college ties want or need you. Then it'll start with one photo of yourself or you in a group, then another, then another, and pretty soon you are telling STRANGERS as far away as NIGERIA with scammers reading and archiving your PERSONAL LIFE and many of these CRIMINALS have the MEANS and MOTIVES to use it how they please.

One family was astonished to discover a photo of theirs was being used in an ADVERTISEMENT (on one of those BILLBOARDS you pass by on the road) in ANOTHER COUNTRY! There are other stories. I've witnessed people posting their photo in social networking sites, only to have others who dis/like them COPY the photo and use it for THEIR photo! It's a complete mess.

The whole GAME stretches much farther than the simple RFID device(s), but how far are you willing to READ about these types of instrusive technologies? If you've heard, Wikileaks exposed corporations selling SPYWARE in software and hardware form to GOVERNMENTS!

You have to wonder, "Will my anti-malware program actually DISCOVER government controlled malware? Or has it been WHITELISTED? or obscured to the point where it cannot be detected? Does it carve a nest for itself in your hardware devices' FIRMWARE, what about your BIOS?

Has your graphics card been poisoned, too?" No anti virus programs scan your FIRMWARE on your devices, especially not your ROUTERS which often contain commercially rubber stamped approval of BACKDOORS for certain organizations which hackers may be exploiting right now! Search on the web for CISCO routers and BACKDOORS. That is one of many examples.

Some struggle for privacy, some argue about it, some take preventitive measures, but those who are wise know:

Privacy is DEAD. You've just never seen the tombstone.

Remember police departments complaining? (2)

Koos (6812) | about a year and a half ago | (#42688787)

Remember how there were big articles in the news that Skype was a problem for law enforcement and criminals were avoiding police investigations by using it. The complaints by law enforcement have stopped, which says enough to me.

whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42689459)

"Internet Privacy" is an oxymoron, anyway. Anything you do/say has a good chance of being logged or recorded. Don't do illegal stuff or look at sheep porn, and you have a lot less to worry about, unless you're in business and worried about trade secrets getting out.

Smart answers (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42689581)

All of it, all of it, hell yes.

Assume anything else about a closed client using a closed protocol running on a black box P2P network, regardless of what anyone says, and you're a moron.

Not a Microsoft problem (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year and a half ago | (#42692167)

Since Skype was acquired by Microsoft, both entities have refused to answer questions about exactly what kinds of user data can be intercepted..

I hate MS as much as the next guy but Skype was exactly just like that before MS bought 'em too. We never really knew how the key exchange works, and being locked into a single implementation of the protocol meant that one implementation could be doing other things independent of the protocol, so nobody has ever had any reason to suspect that it might be secure. It's got nothing to do with Microsoft or the change of ownership. Skype didn't get worse; it simply didn't get better.

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