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Privacy advocates urge Skype to release transparency report

24 Jan 2013
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A group of 44 privacy advocates have written an open letter to Skype urging the firm to release transparency reports.

The letter calls on Microsoft-owned Skype to release regular reports on requests for data the company receives, much like Google does.

"Many of its users rely on Skype for secure communications. Whether they are activists operating in countries governed by authoritarian regimes, journalists communicating with sensitive sources or users who wish to talk privately in confidence with business associates, family, or friends," said the privacy groups in the letter.

"It is unfortunate that these users, and those who advise them on best security practices, work in the face of persistently unclear and confusing statements about the confidentiality of Skype conversations, and in particular the access those governments and other third parties have to Skype user data and communications."

The letter comes from advocacy groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Digital Rights Foundation, and the Global Voices Advocacy. It outlines a model of transparency similar to what Google currently employs in its search department.

The letter urges Skype to release frequent transparency reports outlining the number of requests for data the firm receives in a given time frame.

A company spokesperson told V3 that Skype was currently reviewing the letter.

The letter comes as Skype begins integrating with current Microsoft platforms. Microsoft bought Skype in 2011. It has slowly been integrating the service into its application suite since that time.

Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU, told V3 that the letter was a good way to bring more transparency to the technology sector. Calabrese said that the ACLU was not approached to sign the letter but still agrees with its sentiments.

"The ACLU was not approached to sign on to this letter but we agree generally with this approach," Calabrese said to V3.

"Transparency about law enforcement access to private communications helps individuals understand the issue and alerts all of us to potential problems with how our legal system operates. The ACLU believes that we all deserve this type of openness from both corporations and the government."

The ACLU has also made its own calls for transparency. ACLU members outlined a set of updates they would like to see incorporated into the Electronic Communication Privacy Act passed last year.

ACLU's updates included a guideline for governmental transparency on any surveillance orders made on electronic platforms. The ACLU's petition included support from the likes of the EFF.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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