China surveilling Skype, UPDATE: Skype admits breach, apologizes

An update on the item blogged here earlier today on Boing Boing:
Skype, the online text messaging and voice service, said Thursday it was "extremely concerned" by monitoring of Internet chat by its Chinese partner reported by Canadian researchers.

Skype said it learned just Wednesday that a previously disclosed text filter operated by TOM-Skype, a joint venture between Chinese mobile firm TOM Online and Skype, had been altered.

"Last night, we learned that this practice was changed without our knowledge or consent and we are extremely concerned," Skype, which is owned by US online auction house eBay, said. "We deeply apologise for the breach of privacy relating to chat messages on TOM's servers in China and we are urgently addressing this situation with TOM," the company said.

More here: Skype admits China privacy breach (AFP, Thanks, Oxblood!)



  1. Not that I’m a huge fan of the PRC’s governance, but will someone explain to me how this is differnt from the NSA spying on US phone users?

  2. Ha!
    I was wondering what was happening last night…
    I was talking to my girlfriend in France and someone apparently tapped into our conversation and was drawing a beret on my head, or a rasta hat.. and rainbow sunglasses on my video! We were both pretty shocked because we were having a pretty important conversation…. about Tibetan independence.

  3. @JJasper

    Well in the US the wiretapping without judicial review is illegal, its just the NSA doesn’t give a damn about it.

  4. I’ve worked with computers and the internet for decades. All areas private sector and government.
    Just about every OS, type of server and connection.
    The only thing I can say about this is why is everyone so surprised? If the general public only knew the about of information out there just laying around on servers. Not to mention what is monitored and the who that is doing it. While I can’t say much more than that. Just remember if it’s ever been said, done, sent, received, or just typed and it’s touched an electronic device. It can be brought back, seen or copied for a very long time by anyone on the planet no matter how secure or deleted you think it is. You just need to know where to look. So don’t even think it unless it can be totally public.

  5. I am Canadian, so that means that the NSA can tap my phone/email/internet/fax whenever they want without any warrants etc. Any Americans out there want to fight for my right to not be surveilled : )

    Verner Vinge’s Rainbow’s End and Charles Stross’ Halting State are two recent books that illustrate the reality we face regarding surveillance – it will happen comprehensively and systematically.

  6. It’s important to remember that the issues highlighted in the Information Warfare Monitor / ONI Asia report affect only the TOM-Skype software distributed in China, and not standard versions of Skype. Skype-to-Skype communications are, and always have been, completely secure and private.

    Josh Silverman, Skype’s President, has blogged about the situation, explaining where we stand and what we’re doing to sort things out.

  7. Or, taken differently:
    Josh Silverman, Skype’s President, has blogged about Skype being complicit in TOM gathering data for the PRC government, getting caught, and scrambling to cover its ass.

    Please note that all we have to support Silverman’s claim that “Skype-to-Skype communications are, and always have been, completely secure and private” is… Silverman’s claim. I am not exactly overwhelmed with trust here.

  8. zuzu @1: “Should have used ZRTP for end-to-end strong cryptography for privacy protection.”

    Unfortunately, ZRTP can’t be used with Skype because Skype uses closed and proprietary protocols. It works with just about any other VoIP application though.

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