February 6, 2023

FBI Wants More Power; Looks to Spy on Users Via Skype, Other Services in Real-Time

FBI on Skype, Spying Via Skype, Skype User Privacy

It’s not really breaking news that the government is always seeking ways to gain even more access to even more user data. We recently reported on Microsoft’s disclosure of Skype information to law enforcement organizations around the world. Now, though, America’s FBI is looking to spy on users of Skype and other services in real-time.

It’s true that U.S. government agencies can indeed use surveillance through internet service providers and telephone companies by way of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to monitor some customer services, but this law does not extend to cloud services — which have become more popular in recent years — nor email or VoIP and messaging apps. The apps in particular are not able to be used for spying due to the way they are built and designed, but FBI general counsel Andrew Weissman said getting the power to monitor these types of services in real-time is a “top priority” in 2013.

Specifically, as reported by Slate, Weissmann said that the FBI wants the power to mandate real-time surveillance of everything from Dropbox and online games (“the chat feature in Scrabble”) to Skype, Gmail and Google Voice. “Those communications are being used for criminal conversations,” he said.

It’s true that there could be a select few who may use these services for criminal activity, but it’s also true that Skype is mostly used for simple, everyday conversation. At this point, the American people really should ask themselves how far they’re willing to let the U.S. government go in monitoring their everyday actions without standing up for their rights. With the “intent” on monitoring these services for criminal activity, at what point does the power demanded by governments begin to infringe on the privacy rights of the people?