Though the patent was filed well before Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype, it mentions Skype explicitly as an example application for this technology. Microsoft defends itself by claiming that such technology has existed since a long time for traditional calls, but it does not work with VoIP. The patent describes recording agents that can be placed in several hardware devices as well as software modules that logically and/or physically sits between the call server and the network. The patent was granted last week.
Clearly, the implications of the technology would be severe, especially in the enterprise world. So far, Skype has resisted CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) compliance which would make it suitable to be used for surveillance purposes by federal law enforcement agencies. The ‘protocol’ has been Skype’s best kept secret till date and I personally believe it’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ of the modern web. Given a choice, I believe the Skype management would oppose the idea of eavesdropping on calls. However, now that the Redmond-giant is calling the shots, expect the unexpected.
Microsoft says that ‘Legal Intercept’ can be used by the US government or “one of its agencies”. If further mentions that this technology would require obtaining “appropriate legal permission”, which might not be that difficult for a government to acquire. The technology can record any kind of voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) communications. “VoIP may include audio messages transmitted via gaming systems, instant messaging protocols that transmit audio, Skype and Skype-like applications, meeting software, video conferencing software, and the like,” Microsoft said in the filing.