Unconfirmed reports claim that Skype conversations could soon become monitored for law enforcement purposes. Due to the nature of VoIP, the services are being recognized as a possible source of communication for illegal activity. The VoIP service’s peer-to-peer network connections make it far more difficult, if not impossible, for interception and surveillance. However, government agencies have reportedly been looking for a way in which to monitor Skype calls and a change in the network structure has reportedly been made to allow for easier surveillance and monitoring of conversations.
The incredibly popular VoIP application was recently purchased by Microsoft in 2011, this change in the network structure comes directly from Microsoft itself. Rumors of this change were prompted by Microsoft’s decision to reconstruct supernodes “to make it easier for law enforcement to monitor calls,” though this remains merely speculation. If it were true, then supernodes (servers which connect the caller and recipient) would be able to retrieve the “actual voice data” that “would pass through the monitored servers.” In this sense, the call would not be secured or protected from eavesdropping or monitoring.
The question now being presented is whether privacy among users has been compromised to monitor criminal activity. Yet, this change would simply establish similar guidelines that have long since been used for landline and cell phone communication thus placing Skype on equal footing. Of course, these changes are just speculation, and Mark Gillett, Skype’s Corporate Vice President of Product Engineering and Operations, insists that the reengineering of the supernodes will only improve user experience. He affirms that “calls do not pass through supernodes” and rejects the idea that bringing supernodes to Microsoft’s own servers is to assist law enforcement.
“This has not changed the underlying nature of Skype’s peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture, in which supernodes simply allow users to find one another (calls do not pass through supernodes). We believe this approach has immediate performance, scalability and availability benefits for the hundreds of millions of users that make up the Skype community.”
As the most popular and widely recognized VoIP service, the possibility that calls could be monitored presents a new issue not only for Skype users but for the millions of VoIP users and subscribers across the globe. The ripple effects of this alleged change may soon be felt and affect many more VoIP services and providers.