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Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Microsoft Fights Back Against Skype Censorship in China


Microsoft has made it harder to monitor calls and chats over its Skype phone service in China, a freedom of expression advocacy group said.

Skype on Monday ended a joint-venture with Hong Kong-based TOM Group and found a new partner in China. Skype's new partner is Guangming Founder (GMF), and the companies plan to deliver Skype across multiple platforms, including PCs and mobile devices.

"Skype.com is again redirecting users in China to websites controlled by Chinese companies," the advocacy group, GreatFire, said on Wednesday. "This time, however, all user calls, chats and login information are encrypted and being communicated directly to Microsoft via HTTPS. This is a complete about face for Microsoft from the Tom Skype era, when all information was processed by Tom and stored by Tom on servers located in China with absolutely no privacy controls in place."

The Skype-TOM partnership has come under criticism from rights groups for allowing censorship and surveillance.

Guangming Founder (GMF), a joint-venture of Beijing-based newspaper Guangming Daily and the Founder Group, is a Beijing technology conglomerate established by Peking University, according to the new GMF-Skype website.

Websites such as those of Facebook, Google's YouTube and Twitter are all blocked in China by what is known as the "Great Firewall".

In 2010, Google conducted a partial pull-out from China after it suffered a serious hacking episode that the company said had its roots in China.

In September, the Chinese government announced new measures against domestic Internet services who spread "rumors" online.

Skype's privacy protection have been under the spotlight even outside China.

The recent revelations, disclosed by Edward Snowden in his leaks of U.S. National Security Agency documents, included Skype in the list services that were used by NSA's PRISM program to monitor communications through America's Internet companies.




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