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One more reason to not use Skype for Linux

Even though Skype for Linux is unlike most applications available on any Linux installation, that is, it is a proprietary application, it has long been a popular chat and VoIP application for many users, not for free software purists, but for those that do not care about the core philosophies of free software.

If you belong to that group, that is, if any of the core principles of free software does not come into play in your decision to use or not use a software, the latest news about Skype should make you think twice about using it.

In a recent article published in the The Washington Post, Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima reports that “Skype … has expanded its cooperation with law enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police…”

This should not come as a shock to anybody, considering that Skype is now owned by Microsoft, the anti-Linux and anti-free software company, whose operating system and other software products are riddled with backdoors.

If you use Skype for Linux and if this development bothers, just know that there are alternatives, and they could already be installed or available in the repository of your favorite Linux distribution.

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58 Comments

  1. Wolf Paul says:

    One more thing about the MS bashing: Apparently the law enforcement back door into skype predates the MS acquisition of the company.

  2. Wolf Paul says:

    I use Skype (for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS) because the people I need to communicate with use it and nothing else. As someone else has said, the subjects of my communication via Skype are not the kind that would interest the NSA or law enforcement, even if the government were to change drastically.

    Besides, it is a mistake to assume that every decision one takes is or should be a political or ideological statement.

    • finid says:

      It’s the potential for abuse of these pervasive snooping that people should be talking about. Already, at the local level, there have been reported cases of local officials abusing their access to govt databases for personal revenge.

      Like somebody said about a month ago, all it takes for a dictatorship to happen is just one person at the very top. All the tools and laws are just there, waiting for the 21st Century Stalin.

  3. Chloe Jackson says:

    I don’t think that Skype is a constant danger for the people – those “watergate” people do not use Skype, I think, they are better to use their own, full-secure, private, unique, etc. channels for communication.

    I think using Skype for business purposes is dangerous. For business purposes, it’s better to have an own PBX.

    We use Ozeki Phone System XE (http://www.ozekiphone.com) that is absolute secure, and the data cannot be viewed by anyone putside those who have access.

  4. KP says:

    Nothing to worry about unless you are a criminal. If you’re not doing anything to attract the attention of law enforcement, you don’t have anything to worry about.

    • Indulis says:

      If you have the mistaken belief that “only guilty people need to worry about surveillance”, I suggest you read some history. All it takes is a crisis or a change in government policy, and what was previously legal can become the reason for removal from (say) a government job. Or a way to put pressure on political opponents. Doesn’t the USA remember the McCarthy trials? The FBI “secret files” on people? Watergate? SO now there would be no Watergate “break-in” to discover. No trace of inappropriate use of surveillance. And if you are trying to make change happen (animal rights, climate change policy, birth control etc), then there is a “chilling effect” where people stop taking legal and democratic action, due to fears about being spied on. Saying “only criminals need worry about surveillance” is naive and simplistic, and is not borne out by the bahviours of “surveillance- heavy” governments in the past.

    • no daddy says:

      lousy argument.

    • Marcio Carneiro says:

      What do you think a law authority thinks about WHAT is good or bad?

      So, it is not really necessary you to think, let them think FOR you.

      And you just agree.

  5. sylock says:

    Saying something is bad is the first step. But not sufficient to write an article. You should elaborate further on that ascertainment, list alertnatives, test them, and gives some advices on what software to use to replace Skype.

    If you don’t you won’t help anybody and you won’t change anything.

  6. sean says:

    This article is most unhelpful. The tone is very much evil MS are doing bad things. What would have been much more useful is a discussion on Skype alternatives . I use Skype because it allows me to communicate. The linux version of skype will be depreciated in favour of the windows version in the future based on commercial decisions. As MS now owns Skype they are entitled to do that . I’d like a client that allowed my to use voice/video chat on all of the protocols sip/skype/gtalk and maintain one contacts list. Its about the message not the method people.

  7. Sum Yung Gai says:

    The real solution is either reverse-engineering the protocol for Skype (a KaZaA-derivative) since neither the original authors nor Microsoft will publish the protocol specs; or coming up with something else similar. The idea of P2P telephony is a good one, since it generally means a good connection even over questionable links. I wonder if a Free Software Skype-A-Like could use the Bittorrent protocol for its VoIP transmissions? If so, that would pretty much solve the problem.

    I didn’t trust Skype from the get-go. Sensitive communications really shouldn’t go over an unsecured channel anyway, which Skype is (Skype/MS are an intermediary). Unfortunately, SIP can have issues traversing non-SIP-friendly firewalls.

  8. Lou says:

    The same goes with phone companies that need to give records to the police in the middle of an investigation. The same goes with SMS and Data records. If there’s is a court order, the police can wire tap your phone. This is not news, and I’ve seen the same story about Skype about 3 times already.

    I have nothing against Skype, if you do not want to use it for those principles, that’s a fair and personal decision, but it’s a well known adage in the mob that the business is done in person. You can ask those guys that used GMRS/FRS to coordinate their drug drops. They’re doing about 30 years in federal prison right about now.

  9. Isidoro says:

    It is sad to see that are completely missing the point. It is not about cooperating or not with the police, but to fail to realize that this and similar arrangements support the advance of the police state into which the USA is morphing.

    • Joseph says:

      It’s not a “police state” to allow police to access phone records or tap phones within the bounds of the law. How to do you think many criminals get caught, drug rings get taken down, etc,?

      • pc says:

        I agree that catching criminals does not by itself make a government operate a police state. However, the United States is indeed a police state. It is criminalizing more and more behaviors and using petty criminals to entrap political dissidents. It’s been doing this for decades, but only recently has the net become wide enough to be noticed by those less aware of its practices.

        Since 9/11, various laws and congressional acts have been used to kidnap, imprison, torture and kill thousands of people worldwide and without any legal process to prosecute these supposed criminals.

        These are the actions of a police state – to propagandize, then carry out actions after having engineered information to justify those actions that would otherwise be deemed illegal, immoral and reprehensible.

        I may be wrong, but I think the real motive for this article was to expose such actions and those complicit in them. My objection is only that they couched such motives in a statement about open v/s closed source companies. I don’t think there is any such correlation between closed source companies and support of repressive government practices. If there is, I am open to any information showing such.

  10. Jacob says:

    funny how the article bashes closed source/proprietary software, then advocates for open source; but then the site deletes a comment by Jet5 for being too offensive. Well so much for free speech and being open.

    • finid says:

      There’s nothing wrong with bashing or advocating for one thing or the other. I am have been the recipient of both sentiments based on what I write. I dish it out myself, but I never do it using highly vulgar language. If you cannot express yourself without resorting to foul language, then there are certain communities that will not welcome your posts or comments.

  11. David Leonard says:

    Wow. What a completely unhelpful, loaded, and biased ummm… well, article doesn’t apply. How about piece of garbage?

    How did the thought process on this go? Hmm. I dislike Microsoft. So, I will bash Skype. I will slant it so that anyone who decides to use Skype will be branded as a tool of corporate greed (“those that do not care about the core philosophies of free software.”).

    Then to really expand on this theme, and to further clarify matters, I will simply end the article, telling people use something else, though I will not delineate what else that might be, or how it compares in functionality, and ease of use.

    Further, the so-called “supporting” posts the author, finid, makes are more of the same. Personal attacks against others, and statements that he COULD do something, but he won’t. Sounds like a 10 year old’s argument.

    finid, I am hardly a Microsoft apologist. Liking Skype does not make one so, as much as you might ball up your fists, stomp your feet, and throwing a tantrum in order to make it so. Try this. Post, in another article, or even here, in a reply, a reasoned, logical, and coherent statement outlining your position. (And, let’s be honest here. You actually quoted wikipedia in your reply on August 3rd. Seriously? Who uses wikipedia as a factual source for anything?)

    Until then, don’t try to reply with a personal attack. It simply makes your position to any thinking individual ridiculous.

  12. Wolf Paul says:

    How about if my communications, via Skype and otherwise, do not contain anything that could be even remotely of interest to law enforcement? And if I use it, not because I don’t care about open source software, but because I care MORE about because my contact and relationships with people who use Microsoft Windows and Skype?

  13. pc says:

    Are we to assume from this that there are no Linux developers that collaborate with the police? If so please provide some evidence. I recently found that companies in the US are blocking access to even news stories that are about wikileaks. I am not surprised by the information about Skype at all.

    • brufnus says:

      Well, the whole idea about open source is – as the name implies – that the source code of any such program is made freely available to anyone.
      Thus, if you have any concerns about the developers having hidden collaboration with the police, then you might just check the source code and remove such offending code, if there’s any found.
      I don’t think that serious distributions, such as Red Hat, releases such packages – nor do I think that most other developers will risk being black listed for offering such software.

      • pc says:

        my comment was not about the code, but the developers. If approached by government or police to release any such records that may be available to show use or communication between individuals or groups, would linux developers/companies not comply simply based on their adherence to a different software development model?

        It’s a fair question as the article suggests that Skype, being a Microsoft company is collaborating with police only because it is a Microsoft company and not because it is legally obligated to do so and not in a position to challenge such legal obligations.

        I don’t know of any companies that have successfully resisted government pressure to expose their clients and records. If you do, please inform me.

        And please do not assume I am a Microsoft user. I started using linux in 1998 and only use MS products when it is absolutely necessary.

  14. Jet5 says:

    Comment has been deleted for being too offensive.

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