A EUROPEAN DATA PROTECTION WATCHDOG is investigating Microsoft's voice over IP (VoIP) and chat service Skype about its suspected links to the US National Security Agency (NSA).
According to a report in the Guardian newspaper Skype is being investigated by Luxembourg's data protection commissioner. Since the firm is based in Europe it might find itself under strict inspection and facing criminal proceedings and possible sanctions.
Although no one, including the data protection commissioner, Skype and parent company Microsoft is talking, the Guardian said that the investigation is already underway and follows revelations made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden earlier this year.
Documents revealed by the newspaper showed that after Microsoft took over the chat service the amount of data it shared with the NSA went up. "The NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism," it said.
Human rights group Privacy International told the Guardian that it makes Skype's previous claims look suspect. "The only people who lose are users," said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International. "Skype promoted itself as a fantastic tool for secure communications around the world, but quickly caved to government pressure and can no longer be trusted to protect user privacy."
The relationship between Skype and the NSA is thought to go back to 2011, and at that time the agency was said to have pressed an order onto the company. Shortly after it was crowing about its access to calls.
Microsoft has not responded to our request for comment yet, however it said that its hands are tied and lips are sealed when it comes to talking about national security disclosures, and like other firms has petitioned for permission to be more forthcoming.
"In short, when governments seek information from Microsoft relating to customers, we strive to be principled, limited in what we disclose, and committed to transparency," said Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel and EVP for legal and corporate affairs in July.
"The United States has been a role model by guaranteeing a Constitutional right to free speech. We want to exercise that right. With US Government lawyers stopping us from sharing more information with the public, we need the Attorney General to uphold the Constitution." µ