Skype: Truly Private Phone Calls?

October 13th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized

I think I’m a little late in discovering this, but I just found out about Skype. Skype is a new program from the same people who created Kazaa that allows you to make phone calls to other Skype users with extremely sophisticated encryption. In fact the capability of having private phone calls using VoIP, is so great that the FBI is considering taking them to court because it prevents them from wiretapping. The interesting thing here though is that the these so-called “calls” are just a buch of encrpyted 1’s and 0’s. It’s my understanding that unlimited encryption is allowed for citizens of the US, as long as that technology is not exported overseas. However this technology is not made in the US in the first place, so export restrictions do not apply. So this boils down to two contrary laws – one regarding strong encryption, and the other granting the FBI the ability to wiretap.

This to me also brings up a larger more philosophical point. For the longest time I was a strong advocate of privacy rights, and I still am to a certain extent. However, the problem I’m now having is the unilateral stripping of our privacy rights, while those in power get more privacy. And as I have often repeated this is a recipe for disaster. My feeling is if the FBI wants to wiretap and spy on everyone, then they themselves need to be more accountable and transparent to the people they serve who pay their bills – us. But instead these same people have used the veil of secrecy to conduct themselves in all sorts of unscupulous ways. If they want to make sure we are not a threat, then all I’m asking for is the same ability for us taxpayers to make sure they are not one either. Sounds fair to me, so what am I missing here? Oh thats right, we aren’t really a democracy, or wait, even a republic anymore. We are a corpocracy, a covernment by the corporations for the corporations. Now it’s all starting to make sense.

In either case, this could shape up as one of the more interesting digital rights stories of the coming year.


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