Turns out your video-calls may not be as private as you would hope. Skype and Yahoo video-chat, two popular video-chat services, have stirred up media attention with recent surveillance breaches. While this may cause a shiver to run up the spines of those who utilize video-calls, it should come as little surprise for those keeping up with the NSA’s controversial practices.
Skype, founded in Scandinavia in 2003 and bought by Microsoft eight years later, is used by over 600 million users worldwide and continues to grow in popularity. A recent TeleGeography report shows that Skype’s international traffic spiked thirty-six percent in 2013 alone.
Skype’s wide-reaching global presence makes it a valuable tool for intelligence agencies. If the government can tap into our cell phones why wouldn’t they tap into our video-calls? The chat service, “once considered a secure chat tool beyond the reach of government eavesdropping,” is now under scrutiny for breaching the privacy and trust of its users.
According to the Guardian, “The Microsoft-owned chat company could potentially face criminal and administrative sanctions, including a ban on passing users’ communications covertly to the US signals intelligence agency.” Skype could potentially face fines if their data sharing is proven to violate data-protection laws.
However, Skype is not the only video-chat service under scrutiny. Yahoo chat has also gained negative media attention for its link to the NSA. According to the Guardian, both British surveillance agency (GCHQ) and the NSA “collected and stored webcam images from millions of Yahoo chat users between 2008 and 2010.” PBS published a statistic that might interest those who use video-chat to keep in touch with long-distance significant others: “GCHQ estimates between three to eleven percent of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested was sexually explicit.”
These recent findings, while discomforting, are frankly not surprising in our day and age. A recent article from PBS suggests, “It may be time to disconnect the webcam from your computer.”