Skype Facing Investigation in Luxembourg for NSA Ties. In its 10-year history, Skype has become synonymous with video chatting. Now the company that once had a reputation for protecting its users’ privacy has come under fire for its ties to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
Luxembourg’s data protection commissioner is investigating Skype, according to a Guardianreport published Friday. The Microsoft-owned company, which is headquartered in Luxembourg, could face criminal and administrative sanctions including fines if the investigation finds Skype’s secret involvement with the NSA’s PRISM program violated data-protection laws.
The Guardian states that the probe is a response to revelations from documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, which revealed that Skype and other Internet companies allowed access to users’ online communications to the NSA. Skype was founded in 2003. On early versions of its website from 2004, the company promised users communication that is “highly secure with end-to-end encryption.”
As the company was sold to eBay in 2005 and eventually Microsoft in 2011, its products became less secure for users as Skype formed increasingly close ties to the NSA, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.
The publication also obtained a letter Skype’s corporate vice president Mark Gillett wrote in Sept. 2012, which seems to imply the company can help law enforcement obtain group video calls and instant messages, which are routed through the company’s central servers, but not one-to-one video calls using Skype’s desktop client.
In addition to Skype, Luxembourg hosts several other large tech companies such as Amazonand PayPal, presumably due to its favorable tax structure.
The National Data Protection Commission of Luxembourg can enforce sanctions, including banning Skype from giving the NSA access to users’ communications, but the company may have, unbeknownst to the commission, obtained “a secret legal assistance or data transfer agreement” that would have legally justified its actions, according to the Guardian.
Both Skype and Luxembourg’s data-protection chief, Gerard Lommel, declined to comment for the Guardian story.