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[liberationtech] Call for Open Letter on Skype

Ryan Gallagher ryan at rjgallagher.co.uk
Thu Dec 27 07:36:53 PST 2012


Chris, I think you're right to express a note of caution with regards
jumping to conclusions about the patent. However, the patent is still
relevant to the discussion at hand here. At the very least, the patent is
contributing to a sense of mistrust and that is why it needs to be
addressed.

The questions I want answers to are really quite simple. Can Skype
facilitate a lawful interception request of user calls when presented with
an applicable warrant/court order? If not, does Skype have any plans to
integrate lawful intercept capabilities in the future? What types of data
can Skype hand over to LEAs where presented with a valid warrant/court
order? Has the Microsoft VoIP intercept patent been integrated into the
Skype architecture? If not, are there any plans to integrate the Microsoft
VoIP intercept patent with Skype at any time in the future? (Other
pertinent questions have been asked by others; see here:
https://www.privacyinternational.org/blog/skype-please-act-like-the-responsible-global-citizen-you-claim-to-be
)

As I previously mentioned to you in a separate email, I also think it's
worth noting that although the patent was originally filed in 2009,
Microsoft was still actively pursing the patent as of September 2011, four
months after it acquired Skype, filing various amendments and a request for
continued examination following the publication of the patent in June 2011.
I do not think this constitutes evidence that the patent is being or has
been integrated into Skype, but I do think it illustrates why the patent is
of continuing relevance to any discussion around Skype's security.

Ultimately, Skype has more than 600 million users. As I see it, those users
-- many of whom are citizens, activists or journalists operating in
sensitive environments -- should have a right to know exactly what Skype
can and cannot do with their communications. All I'd like to see is a bit
of transparency.

Best,

Ryan

On Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 4:34 AM, Christopher Soghoian <chris at soghoian.net>wrote:

> I can't believe that I am saying this, but can we tone down the paranoia a
> bit please?
>
> Large US technology companies are stockpiling patents, left, right and
> center, primarily because of the costly patent wars that are ravaging the
> industry. Back in 2011, Microsoft (and a consortium of other companies,
> including Apple) bought telecom giant Nortel's portfolio of patents for 4.5
> billion. I guarantee you there are a few surveillance related technologies
> in that portfolio of 6000 telco patents. That doesn't mean Microsoft wanted
> to implement Nortel's patented surveillance technologies - but rather, that
> it thought a partial share in that portfolio would give it leverage in its
> war against Google and others.
>
> If you want a good primer on this toxic aspect to the american legal
> system and the IT industry, I can't think of anything better than this
> episode of This American Life:
> http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/441/when-patents-attack
>
> Microsoft filed the Skype interception patent (which really isn't directed
> at Skype - the word Skype appears twice, in a patent filing that is over
> 9000 words) in 2009, two years before the company bought Skype.
>
> Companies file patents all the time for technologies they don't intend to
> ever use.
>
> Now, don't get me wrong, there are lots of things that Microsoft does that
> concern me. The total silence from the C-level suite about Stuxnet and
> Flame is shocking, while their continued refusal to include disk encryption
> functionality in the consumer version of Windows that comes with most new
> PCs is absolutely disgraceful.
>
> However, the mere filing of a patent for an interception technology,
> without any evidence to suggest that Microsoft has implemented it Skype, is
> simply not a good reason to get out the pitchforks.
>
> Regards,
>
> Chris
>
> On Wed, Dec 26, 2012 at 2:53 PM, The Doctor <drwho at virtadpt.net> wrote:
>
>>
>>
>> There is no reason to expect that anything good for anyone other than
>> them will come from such a letter.  Not with this on deck:
>>
>>
>> http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PG01&s1=20110153809&OS=20110153809&RS=20110153809
>>
>> http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/29/microsoft_skype/
>>
>>
>> https://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9218002/Microsoft_seeks_patent_for_spy_tech_for_Skype
>>
>> It would make no sense at all for them to do the work to file a patent
>> on CALEA intercept of Skype traffic and then not do anything with it.
>
>
> --
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