Spying on Skype Users in China

In a ComputerWorld story yesterday, Skype says that it was not aware that China was monitoring, censoring and then archiving text messages that contain certain politically sensitive words that are sent on Tom-Skype, a joint venture between Chinese Internet service provider Tom Online and Skype (which is itself owned by eBay).

As told in a story in the New York Times earlier this week, Citizen Lab, a human-rights activist group that focuses on politics and the Internet at the University of Toronto discovered the surveillance by accident in September. Citizen Lab claimed that they uncovered over a million censored messages logged on eight message-logging computers in China.

Some of the 25 words uncovered as being considered politically sensitive include Falun Gong, Taiwan independence, the Chinese Communist Party, democracy, earthquake and milk powder.

Back over in the ComputerWorld story, Skype said that it thought that the â''Tom-Skype software was merely filtering certain words from chat messages, not storing them on a server.â'' All ISPs in China have an obligation to monitor communications, the story notes.

Tom Online's parent company, Tom Group said that it was complying with Chinese law.

I for one am not surprised by this. One must now assume that all email and text message traffic is being monitored by someone â'' private entity or governmental agency (your own or someone else).


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City