Activists urge Skype, Microsoft to publish government transparency report

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Activists are urging Skype and its parent company, Microsoft, to publish government transparency reports similar to the kind that Google, Twitter and Sonic.net release twice a year.

In an open letter to Skype, privacy advocates, Internet activists, journalists and other organizations detailed the type of data they would like the company to release, as well as retention policies.

“We understand that the transition of ownership to Microsoft, and the corresponding shifts in jurisdiction and management, may have made some questions of lawful access, user data collection, and the degree of security of Skype communications temporarily difficult to authoritatively answer,” they said.

“However, we believe that from the time of the original announcement of a merger in October 2011, and on the eve of Microsoft’s integration of Skype into many of its key software and services, the time has come for Microsoft to publicly document Skype’s security and privacy practices.”

Various groups included on the list are: Calyx Institute, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Open Technology Institute and The Guardian Project.

Several noted individuals on the list include journalist Ryan Gallagher and technologist Sascha Meinrath.

Additionally, they requested “Skype’s best understanding of what user data third-parties, including network providers or potential malicious attackers, may be able to intercept or retain”; documentation about operational relationships with licensed third parties, as well as their surveillance and censorship capabilities; and finally, Skype’s interpretation of its legal responsibilities to comply with law enforcement requests for user information.

Google released its biannual Transparency Report for the second half of 2012 on Thursday, in which the company noted that government requests for Google user data is continuing to trend upward.

The U.S. government’s requests for user data in 2012 comprised the majority of the requests made by governments (40 percent), and the number of requests it made to the company increased from 2011 by 33 percent.

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