Skype collecting private user data – so what?

* Skype collecting motherboard numbers is much ado about nothing

Web bloggers and the general news media have been buzzing for the last couple of weeks about “private user data” being collected by Skype, fearing a breach of personal privacy. Specifically, Skype software was reportedly reading users’ personal computer BIOS data and motherboard serial numbers and reporting the information back to Skype servers. BIOS is an acronym for Basic Input/Output System and BIOS is used by Windows IBM compatible systems to help boot the PC at start-up.


We want to know what YOU think – Jump into the debate!


Skype’s explanation for collecting the data was that it was being used to physically identify which computer was being used and to protect against unlicensed or illegal use or software — essentially a digital rights management technique used to assure that plug-ins were compatible with licensing agreements. But, Skype explained, since the technique was not performing well, the company removed the feature in an updated version of Skype for Windows, version 3.0.0.216, which was made available for download on the company’s Web site.

We think all the excitement is “much ado about nothing.” First, many software applications including Microsoft programs collect information about every user’s computer - albeit generally with the individual user’s consent under the terms of use agreement. The data is most often used to make sure that applications are compatible with hardware still being used in the field. Second, users who are concerned that their location might be tracked by collecting their serial number and their IP address are probably more vulnerable to having their location identified by the signal from their cell phone. Third, Skype’s intentions were honorable and consistent with the Skype terms of use agreement that users consent to when the user executes the Skype set-up file. And finally, does anybody really care about their motherboard serial numbers? Certainly there are more important things in life to worry about! If you agree, or not, please feel free to drop us an e-mail.

Skype’s explanation for collecting the data was that it was being used to physically identify which computer was being used and to protect against unlicensed or illegal use or software — essentially a digital rights management technique used to assure that plug-ins were compatible with licensing agreements. But, Skype explained, since the technique was not performing well, the company removed the feature in an updated version of Skype for Windows, version 3.0.0.216, which was made available for download on the company’s Web site.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Related:

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.