Privacy Freakouts

From Skydrive to Skype, We’re Not Safe From Microsoft’s Hairy Eyeball

Totally not Big Brother-ish at all, no.
skydrive logo 640x440 From Skydrive to Skype, Were Not Safe From Microsofts Hairy Eyeball

The eye in the cloud. (Microsoft)

Microsoft-owned Skype won’t come clean on whether its architecture allows for wiretaps. When it comes to Skydrive, the software giant’s cloud storage service, Microsoft is checking your ‘private’ folders, looking for swears and nudes.

Last Friday Slate reported Skype won’t comment on whether it can now eavesdrop on conversations. Ryan Gallagher wrote, “In May 2011, Microsoft bought over Skype for $8.5 billion. One month later, in June, Microsoft was granted a patent for ‘legal intercept’ technology designed to be used with VOIP services like Skype to ‘silently copy communication transmitted via the communication session.’”

In spite of hacker allegations about major changes in the way Skype works after being bought by Microsoft, the company wouldn’t tell Slate anything per “company policy”–a phrase beloved by slippery P.R. folks avoiding difficult subjects.

Where Skydrive–which requires you have a Windows Live account–is concerned, however, Microsoft is definitely watching you. As reported on July 18 by Myce.com, this is what recently happened to a Dutch user, screen name “WingsOfFury,” when he discovered he could no longer use any of his Windows Live services:

After some investigation he found out that his account was blocked, preventing him from e-mailing from his phone, access to his files on his Skydrive account, downloading applications in the market and he also couldn’t login to Xbox Live account, which also renders his achievements useless.

After contact with Microsoft support he found out that his account was blocked because there was a 9 Gigabyte folder on his Skydrive that contained content which was not allowed by the code of conduct of Microsoft Skydrive. Interestingly the folder was a private folder, not shared to ayone else. The same data was also on a private folder on Dropbox, from which the user never received a complaint.

“WingsOfFury” likely violated Microsoft’s Windows Live code of conduct, which aims to make the Web safe for Eisenhower’s America with its list of “Prohibited Uses.” These include depictions of “nudity of any sort including full or partial human nudity or nudity in non-human forms such as cartoons, fantasy art or manga,” as well as “content that is protected by intellectual property laws, rights of privacy or publicity, or any other applicable law unless you own or control the rights thereto or have received all necessary consents.”

The Skydrive story highlights a huge drawback to the Cloud–loss of even the illusion of privacy when storing digital content online. It also suggests if Microsoft will actively peruse what you store even in so-called “private” folders on Skydrive, it’s pretty easy to infer they might not have a problem with authorities peeking at whatever you’re transmitting via Skype.

Follow Steve Huff via RSS. shuff@observer.com