Skype

Skype

Microsoft
Wi-Fi

Review date: Sept. 8, 2021

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Very creepy

Before video call features came standard on mobile phones (shoot, almost before mobile phones), there was Skype. Launched in 2003, the former king of video calls has added features in an effort to keep up with the booming video call competition — recently they even partnered with the new Space Jam movie so you could have Lebron James in your background. Skype lets users blur their background for extra privacy, use real-time language translation and unlike some of the other apps on our list, call regular phone numbers. The video call app is owned by Microsoft these days, which means Skype integrates with services like Microsoft Teams.

What could happen if something goes wrong?

Skype has had some privacy concerns in the past, most notably when it came to light that Microsoft, which owns Skype, allowed contract workers in China to listen in to Skype calls with "no security measures" in place. It has since changed this practice, but it is a good reminder that even companies with decent security practices can handle your private data and conversations sloppily. Because Skype has been popular for a number of years, it has become a target for malware and phishing attacks. Users are able to set up two-factor authentication on Skype, which we recommend to help keep that conversation you're having with Grandma from being invaded by some angry troll. Skype doesn't use the stronger end-to-end encryption on phone or video calls, which, boo! Users can protect their text chats by enabling “private conversations.” Microsoft does collect a fair amount of data and says they may share this with third-parties like Facebook and Verizon for advertising purposes. It also says it combines data with third-parties such as data brokers, which can include your location. This isn't great. It’s also, unfortunately, not uncommon.

mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: N/A

App: Yes

Microphone

Device: N/A

App: Yes

Tracks location

Device: N/A

App: Yes

What can be used to sign up?

Users can sign in with their email or phone number. Skype also recently added a feature called Meet Now that allows anyone to create and share a Skype call without signing up for Skype via a Meet Now link they create on the Skype website.

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

Microsoft uses data to advertise and market to you, which includes sending promotional communications, targeting advertising, and presenting you with offers. It does use your data to target you with advertising within Microsoft web properties. It also allows numerous partners like Verizon and Facebook, to collect data about your online activity for advertising purposes, and to place their own ads. Microsoft also extensively combines its data with third parties, such as data brokers for demographic data, service providers that help determine your device’s location, marketing partners, third parties that deliver experiences through Microsoft products, and publicly-available sources, such as open government databases.

How can you control your data?

Most data can be accessed or controlled via the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard. Data retention details are stated in the part of the privacy policy that is hard to access, and does not include clear retention time frames. Skype allows hosts to add and remove people from calls, mute users, toggle video and subtitles on and off, share screen, send an emoji reaction, and record calls. Those who pay for Skype for Business can choose who can enter, disable instant messages, mute all participants and block participants video.

What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?

Needs Improvement

In January 2020, it was reported that Skype was using contractors in China to listen to Skype calls with allegedly no security measures in place. The company also shared login credentials of users with contractors. The company spokesman claimed that the company ended its grading programs for Skype. Also in January 2020, a report revealed that 250 million Microsoft customer records, spanning 14 years, had been exposed online without password protection.

Can this product be used offline?

Not Applicable

User-friendly privacy information?

No

It was difficult to find answers to some essential questions. For example, which type of data is collected, or what are data retention periods. In addition, the policy is for all-things-Microsoft, so it is difficult if impossible to find Skype-specific info.

Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information

Yes

Encryption

Yes

Calls and video calls do not have end-to-end encryption. Chats are not end-to-end encrypted by default, but this feature can be enabled for so called 'Private Conversations'.

Strong password

Yes

No password-protected meeting feature exists for Skype. For log-in to Skype. a strong password is required.

Security updates

Yes

Microsoft pushes regular security updates to its communication products

Manages vulnerabilities

Yes

Microsoft has a bug bounty program for security vulnerabilities

Privacy policy

Yes

Rather complicated but holistic privacy policy. No separate policy for Skype, but the general for Microsoft.

Does the product use AI? information

Yes

With Skype’s translation features, Skype collects and uses your conversation to provide the translation service. With your permission, your data may be used to help improve Microsoft products and services. To help the translation and speech recognition technology learn and grow, sentences and automatic transcripts are analyzed and any corrections are entered into Microsoft system, to improve the product.

Is this AI untrustworthy?

Can’t Determine

What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?

Is the company transparent about how the AI works?

Yes

Does the user have control over the AI features?

Can’t Determine


News

Microsoft listened to Skype calls with 'no security' to protect recordings, report says
CNET
A Microsoft effort to improve Skype calls and the Cortana virtual assistant by listening in on user interactions reportedly had "no security measures" in place to protect data. Contract workers in China were able to access recordings via a web app from personal computers in their homes, according to a Friday report in The Guardian.
Is Skype Safe and Secure? What are the Alternatives?
Comparitech
If you use Skype, should you be concerned about your security and privacy? We take a look and investigate some more secure alternatives.
Skype rolls out 'Meet Now' calls that don't need a sign-up or installation
Engadget
With Meet Now, hosts can create and share a free meeting with just three clicks, according to the company. Even the host doesn't need to have Skype installed -- you can start the process from its website right here -- and then invite people either using a simple link or the share button.
Skype now offers end-to-end encrypted conversations
The Verge
But it’s opt-in and not on by default
Skype audio graded by workers in China with 'no security measures'
The Guardian
Exclusive: former Microsoft contractor says he was emailed login after minimal vetting
Microsoft Security Shocker As 250 Million Customer Records Exposed Online
Forbes
A new report reveals that 250 million Microsoft customer records, spanning 14 years, have been exposed online without password protection.
Skype Privacy Settings
Kaspersky Lab
Learn how to change your privacy settings on Skype
Skype phishing attack targets remote workers
TechRadar
Remote workers have been warned to take extra care when using video conferencing software after a new phishing scam was uncovered.
Skype says it respects your privacy while sharing link that says it uses third-party data
Windows Central
The Skype Twitter account recently tried to ride the wave of WhatsApp hate. WhatsApp came under fire after the service changed its privacy policies. With many people on the hunt for the best WhatsApp alternatives, Skype tried to draw in some more people. Unfortunately for the Skype team, they didn't get the response they were likely hoping for.

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