If you use Skype, you may have noticed the number of people online on your contacts list dwindling a little lately.
I myself was signed out of Skype last night. I can no longer log in; my old version of Skype, 5.10, is now considered to be too old.
I can't say I'm *entirely* surprised about this; I was given ample warning that this would happen, and I just didn't heed it because the older version still worked long past the cutoff dates given to me. Unfortunately, this has left me with the problem of how to tell everybody that I'm probably not going to be using it any more. This is a shame, because I actually used it quite a lot.
Why will I not be using it any more? Why can't I just update to the newest version?
Well, for some people the answer will be that they're still using Windows XP, which the newer versions of Skype don't support. That's not the case for me, but if you know that a contact of yours has Windows XP and you haven't heard from them for a bit, that may be why.
But no, the thing for me is that I've been hearing a lot about how Skype is connected to the NSA. I probably don't need to explain why this is a bad thing, but it's possible some people reading this may not realise that the NSA collects data about you in bulk, including recording audio of phone calls, recording IMs, web sites you visit, and a lot of other things. Recently news came out that they were targetting the privacy-conscious.
To put it lightly, the NSA are violating your privacy quite deliberately and knowingly - even if you live in the US. (The NSA's states that it only applies data gathering to foreign countries, but I'm willing to bet that there are sites you visit that aren't sited in the US. Same applies if you live outside of the US and thought you were safe; if you use sites sited in the US (note: Dreamwidth is such a site), then the NSA is interested in you.
The NSA also lies about how much data is collected. It was thought that the NSA "only" recorded metadata about phone calls such as time/date, phone numbers of each party, etc. Turns out that's untrue; apparently, "At least 80 percent of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US". I am a little doubtful about that figure (and there is no evidence for this, unlike with Edward Snowden's leaked files), but if the figure is off then it probably isn't off by much. Even if the figure was 60%, that's still a frighteningly large amount.
I see no reason to believe that Skype is exempt from this, especially as there are news stories about Skype being connected to the NSA. (The linked article is just one such article.)
I also found out today that Skype comes pre-installed with Windows 8.1, which follows their phase-out of Windows Live Messenger (also known by many as MSN Messenger). This makes Skype an incredibly attractive target for not just the NSA but also for hacking/cracking groups. Mostly the NSA, though.
So what is someone to do? I believe I can no longer use Skype as a permanent solution. Note that using an alternative Skype client will not solve the problem; any recording of data would be server-side, so it really doesn't matter what client you use to connect to it. (Not that Skype has exactly had the best of compatibility with third-party clients anyway.)
Does anyone have any ideas?
Apparently, eBay, who owns the Skype VoIP network, may have to shut down Skype. This has some rather interesting implications, since, well, Skype is huge.