How Skype is collecting private user data

* Clarification on Skype collecting private user data

Last week, we commented about how Skype was being taken to task by privacy advocates over what we believed was “much ado about nothing.” However, in our attempt to be brief, we may have not been clear about how the data was being collected so today, we’d like to print a clarification provided by Kurt Sauer, Skype’s chief security officer.

According to Sauer: “One of the new features in Skype for Windows is the Extras Gallery. The Gallery is managed by a plug-in manager software framework developed by EasyBits Software and used under license. The EasyBits software includes a form of digital rights management functionality intended to protect commercial software, such as plug-ins, from illegal redistribution or unlicensed use.”

He continued: “To enforce these license agreements, the EasyBits framework attempts to uniquely identify what physical computer it’s running on. One way to do this identification is to simply read the serial number of the motherboard, which is often available through a public query to the BIOS.”

Sauer concludes, “It is quite normal to look at indicators that uniquely identify the platform and there is nothing secret about reading hardware parameters from the BIOS. The function calls to do this are public and are available to any software running on your computer. Of course, in line with our Privacy Agreement, Skype does not retrieve any of this data. It is only used by the EasyBits software to ensure that plug-in use complies with the appropriate license token or key.”

On a separate note, we’d like to recommend Network World's free Executive Guide "VoIP: No Turning Back." The 28-page guide covers news and analysis about VoIP security, peering, open source apps, and Wi-Fi/cellular convergence. It also documents some interesting case studies and provides testing information on VoIP analysis tools.

While our readers will still want to stay tuned to our newsletter for their twice-weekly VoIP and convergence updates, we think this guide is a good synopsis covering a wide variety of topics and well worth the time to read other expert opinions. For a copy of the guide, please click here.

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

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.