First, let's acknowledge it might be true that Microsoft has figured out a way to allow authorities to listen to calls made via Skype. That would bring Skype in line with the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), or the same 1994 law that governs wiretaps and was expanded in 2005 to allow access to digital phone networks.
Skype has some 660 million users; do you really think the feds are going to treat it any differently than the cellphone you have in your pocket or the one that might still be plugged into your wall? The notion that Skype will, eventually, conform to CALEA is just a matter of time.
What happens to it from there -- if all our calls and chats will then be sucked into the vast data center being constructed in a Utah salt mine by the NSA, for example -- is anyone's guess. Insert your favorite conspiracy theory here. Also: Get me James Cameron, I have a movie script I want to pitch.
Until then, though, we need to take a deep breath and figure out what is actually true about any of this. So far, there ain't much.
What Microsoft should do is issue a transparency report similar to the ones released recently by Google and Twitter, detailing the many requests it receives for user data from various and sundry government authorities. It should also officially publish the guidelines authorities must follow in order to request information, as well as what types of data are available and how long they are retained. That document [PDF] was made available via a leak to Cryptome.org and is now four years old; I'd like a fresh copy, please.
That would be one way to dispel the notion that Microsoft is the evil bogeyman -- at least, more evil than all the other bogeymen. But it won't make for a very sexy headline.
Is Microsoft Skype-spying on us? Doff your tin foil hats below or beam your thoughts to me via email@example.com.
This article, "Microsoft-Skype snooping accusations push all the paranoia buttons," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.