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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. will says:

    I really don’t mind having my conversations checked by police or goverment.
    They can do that already with emails, mobile calls, internet… why not skype as well? That alone changes nothing.

    The issue is not on skype or microsoft attitude, but the laws. The companies have to play the game.

  2. Ajibola says:

    It’s no business of anyone what I can and can’t install on my Linux System, proprietary or not.

    Posts like this are what is stifling the growth of Linux on desktop systems. Regrettably

    • Oyin says:

      “Posts like this are what is stifling the growth of Linux on desktop systems.”

      That’s childish, but seriously?

  3. Rob says:

    Unfortunately, some of us are required to use Skype to communicate with stakeholders, customers, contractors, etc.

    It would be more helpful for your readership to simply explain how a mandatory access control policy would contain any potential undesirable behavior that Skype might exhibit as the result of a flawed code base.

  4. Damien says:

    It’s very nice to tell us how shitty it is to use SKype as a free software purist, but it would have been a little more useful to tell us about the alternatives and to stick to a poor “skype is shit, there is alternatives”. Id like to switch from skype to a free alternative, but i have to say that it is not as easy as it’s presented here, as eg all your contacts should make the switch too, and you ve got to set up a lot of stuff.

  5. bleh says:

    What has the fact that complying with the law and working with law enforcement to help make the world a better place, got to do with being anti-free software and anti-linux?

    Lets face it, majority of Skype network is running on Linux.

    What a stupid article. Maybe if you stopped wasting so much time and energy hating Microsoft and just get on with doing something useful to help the world and community, then we wouldn’t be brought down with your negative attitude and pish poor article with no fact finding or evidence behind anything you’ve said.

    • finid says:

      Sure, all those backdoors in Windows are also there “to help make the world a better place.” It’s one thing to comply with the law like Twitter and a few others do, it’s another to invite law enforcement into the code.

      Not that I’m going to attempt convincing you that there is a difference between complying with the law and working with law enforcement

  6. SFLPhone says:

    The open-source, enterprise-class softphone for GNU/Linux:

    http://sflphone.org/

    SFLPhone

  7. Oxanna says:

    I don´t like that Skype wants to give its User-Information to the police. Am i the only one concerned about Private-Date Issues?

  8. Mike Smith says:

    Hi Richard,
    You are woefully uneducated about Microsoft, and their business practices (a-la the BSA, BeOS to name a few), and the terrible way in which they write software – and then whack you exorbitantly for the privilege of using it.

    Did you know, that you are also supposed to pay Microsoft even if you don’t use their software? It’s true. Ask Barnes and Noble. Choice is not for users, rather it is for Microsoft.

    Microsoft calls that “innovation”.

    Microsoft plainly configures their software to not only be incompatible with other vendors, especially competing vendors, but worse they make it incompatible within their own versions of said software. Their goal is make you purchase (microsoft) software, not build reliable software. This is in very stark contrast to open source software.

    A recent shining example is docx. Sure they made a converter available, but that converter is problematic, and often doesn’t work or introduces new problems.

    Anyone who has been around even a few years has had the pleasure of watching the same MS vulnerabilities pop up year after year, in version after version, of “pick any MS product”, and will surely understand that “Microsoft has confirmed that this is a problem in the Microsoft products listed above.” If I had a nickel…

    Before you start complaining about bugs in other vendors software, consider that in 2011 there were more Windows XP and Windows Vista and More Windows 7 vulnerabilities than were in Ubuntu. This is not combined Windows vulnerabilities. There were 10 for Ubuntu and 100 or so for EACH of MS’s operating systems. This is according to s21sec, a firm who tracks software vulnerabilities, and has been doing such for a decade.

    Now really my goal is not convince Richard becasue he is a MS shill, or worse an internet troll. My goal is rather to show casual and curious readers that MS is a friend to no one.

  9. I’m agree with author..skype cooperate with CIA and FBI too..same with facebook

  10. Dan Saint-Andre says:

    You close this article saying, “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.” You might have a better article if you had suggested (1) one or two specific alternatives, or (2) reference to another article that reviewed or summarized linux alternatives.

    Also, for those who suggest using Google™, everything I’ve read tells me that they are deeply in bed with all sorts of governments and agencies to supply information about all Google user’s activities. If you fault Skype™, you must fault Google as well.

    ~~~ 0;-Dan

  11. SickOfFUD says:

    1. If you want a “not Skype” chat client for Linux, try Google Talk. Free conference calling via “hangout”, IM just like… well every IM since the 90’s

    2. I’m not sure what you guys’ issue (it’s soon to be apperant about whom I’m speaking) is. What do you thihk ANY company’s response will be if an IM or VOIP transcript/ recording is supoena’d?

    • NoCaDrummer says:

      I’d be more worried about Microsoft stealing ideas that they heard/saw while snooping than I am my government. Them, or other companies with whom they have “a partnership.”

  12. Denis says:

    I guess somebody needs to sit and write a _decent_ realization of Jingle Nodes protocol in any open-source jabber-server. OpenFire team tried, but it’s support is rough at the edges to say at least.

    Without that happening it’s a hand-waving about Skype.

  13. If I’m not doing anything wrong, then they have no reason to watch me.

    The spying on users takes place regardless of the content of the conversation. Your “don’t discuss anything illegal through voip chat” is merely a form of saying if you aren’t doing anything wrong then you have nothing to hide, which is totally the wrong way to think about privacy.

    I could explain why, but fortunately Bruce Schneier did it for us years ago: http://www.wired.com/politics/security/commentary/securitymatters/2006/05/70886

    • Nikkels says:

      You obviously do not live under a “regime”.
      Good for you.
      It doesn’t matter if it’s legal.
      If ‘they’ don’t like it, you will soon make many new friends ‘inside’.

    • david says:

      “If I’m not doing anything wrong, then they have no reason to watch me.”

      If they don’t watch you how will they know when you begin to do something wrong?

  14. The Advocate says:

    Uhhh how about dont discuss anything illegal through voip chat? That should be common sense regardless.

    • finid says:

      So, can I install a webcam on your wife’s dresser? It shouldn’t be a problem if she’s not going to be doing anything illegal, right?

      • Richard says:

        There’s a big difference between watching a person on a webcam and having access to conversation logs. Your statements are needlessly provocative and don’t make sense given the context.

        And as “SickOfFUD” already mentioned: Microsoft has to comply with the law.

        It’s also funny to see the authors comments on “Microsoft, the anti-Linux and anti-free software company” when Microsoft are in direct competition with Linux, so being “anti-Linux” is a smart business move – yet they’re not. In fact, Microsoft contribute MUCH more to FOSS than companies like Canonical: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/openness/default.aspx#about

        This whole article is a joke. It’s inherently biased and misinformed.

        • finid says:

          Isn’t Microsoft’s position a sweet one: Contributing “MUCH more to FOSS,” while taking every other step to stifle same. I could list a zillion ways MS is going about the stifling, but what’s the point. It wouldn’t make any difference to you.

          • Richard says:

            On the contrary, it would make a very big difference. My opinion is formed on the knowledge that Microsoft is doing more to help FOSS than they are to hinder it. They contribute so much despite having no obligation to. Please, go ahead and list you purported zillion ways.

          • finid says:

            A statement like “Microsoft is doing more to help FOSS than they are to hinder it,” reveals a lot about you.

          • Richard says:

            [QUOTE]A statement like “Microsoft is doing more to help FOSS than they are to hinder it,” reveals a lot about you.[/QUOTE]
            This doesn’t strike you as rude thing to say?

            finid, not only did you completely dismiss the fallacies I pointed out, you went a step further and replied with a (rather ignorant) stab at Microsoft:

            [QUOTE]Isn’t Microsoft’s position a sweet one: Contributing “MUCH more to FOSS,” while taking every other step to stifle same. I could list a zillion ways MS is going about the stifling, but what’s the point. It wouldn’t make any difference to you.[/QUOTE]

            When I told you I was open to hearing your claimed “zillion ways” in which Microsoft have hindered FOSS you replied not with an answer, but a personal (passive-aggressive) attack at me:

            [QUOTE]A statement like “Microsoft is doing more to help FOSS than they are to hinder it,” reveals a lot about you.[/QUOTE]

            So in the end all you managed to accomplish was being rude and failing to acknowledge the FUD that was quite clearly, and quite reasonably pointed out to you. Instead you made baseless comments on the content of my character.

            Please, tell me what faceless assumptions you have about me on the basis of my comments?

          • finid says:

            The “faceless” assumptions are that you either just dropped in from another planet, which means you do not know Microsoft’s history with open/free software, especially Linux, or you are a Microsoft apologist.

            Spend some time reading the following documents, then come back and tell us if you learnt anything from them about Microsoft:

            1. The Halloween Documents at http://www.catb.org/~esr/halloween/

            2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear,_uncertainty_and_doubt (special attention to the “Microsoft” section)

          • finid says:

            Microsoft’s shallow contributions to open/free software is akin to hugging a guy, while at the same time, stabbing him in the back. Or like a mob boss contributing to the medical bills of a guy he tried to kill.

            I’m sure you consider Microsoft implementation of Secure Boot on desktop computer and the licensing agreement with ARM hardware vendors immeasurable contributions to Linux.

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