Security

Skype explored how to aid law enforcement by snooping under secret ‘Project Chess’

Tech companies may have denied accusations that they give law enforcement direct access to user info, but we now know of one company that at least explored the idea: Skype.

Under a program called “Project Chess,” Skype looked into some of the legal and technical challenges of making it easier for intelligence agencies to tap into Skype calls, anonymous sources tell The New York Times. The existence of the project was known by fewer than a dozen people.

Sources say that Skype started Project Chess in 2008, back when it was owned by eBay and long before it fell into the arms of its current owner, Microsoft. The move also came years before Skype joined PRISM in January 2011, according to the documents leaked by the now-infamous National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Snooping accusations against Skype are nothing new, and last year they forced Skype vice president Mark Gillett to defend his company against the claims that Skype goes out of its way to help law enforcement.

“Skype’s architecture decisions are based on our desire to provide the best possible product to our users,” Gillett said in a length blog post last year, referring to a number of the then-recent changes Skype made to its infrastructure.

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