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EU Might Be Listening In on VoIP Calls
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February 26, 2009

EU Might Be Listening In on VoIP Calls

By Jessica Kostek, TMCnet Channel Editor

In the book 1984 Winston Smith, the protagonist of the story, lives in a world where everything is controlled by the government that is never seen but is feared, tremendously.

Those who lived in the country of Oceania, like Winston, kept themselves in line with what was “normal” and never strayed off the beaten path. This was because everything had to be in accordance with the countries ministries, for instance the Ministry of Truth, which reported news in Newspeak, a language that used simplistic words while contradicted itself on a daily basis. If someone went against what was published, they weren’t seen shortly after, hence the massive fear.
This fictional government could give a lesson to the actual ones in the world today, at least in terms of security.
According to, “following a request from Italian legal authorities, a European Union (E.U.) crime fighting body is considering ways to investigate eavesdropping on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Skype (News - Alert).”
The call to action came was a response to a request from the Italian anti-mafia office in Rome, the Direzione Nazionale Antimafia, according to Eurojust, the E.U.’s judicial cooperation unit.
The USA Patriot Act, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, on their Website says “just 45 days after the September 11 attacks…Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act…giving the government the power to access your…[personal] information…without telling you for weeks, months, or indefinitely.”
Many Americans during this period thought this act violated their civil rights while others thought it necessary for the War on Terror. Although, the USA Patriot (News - Alert) Act, in comparison with the European Union’s VoIP calls, took the Big Brother approach to a different level.
Based on reports from the Italian police, they believe organized criminals and prostitution rings are turning to Skype, headquartered in Luxembourg and other VoIP systems to frustrate investigators.
Unlike regular cell phone calls, VoIP services cannot be tapped at local exchanges and Skype also has a proprietary encryption method. The BBC quoted an Italian official’s frustration: “Skype's encryption system is a secret which the company refuses to share with the authorities.”
A post on Eurojust, dated February 25, sounded as if it took a step back from a statement posted several days before stating it needed an update because the investigation was “not yet an official case.”
A Skype spokesperson had responded to Eurojust’s post by saying, "Skype remains interested in working with Eurojust despite the fact that they chose not to contact us before issuing this inaccurate report,” the spokesperson told Zdnet. Skype “works with law enforcement agencies where legally and technically possible.”
The former administration had claimed that with the instillation of the USA Patriot Act, thousands of American lives have been saved. Since this Act is extremely confidential, for obvious reasons, we Winston Smith’s will never know the extent of that claim, or if there is any truth to it. However, concerning the E.U.’s investigations with VoIP eavesdropping, only those who work for places like the Ministry of Truth will know the unequivocal truth.

Jessica Kostek is a channel editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Jessica’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jessica Kostek

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