I think it’s extremely unlikely that your Skype calls are recorded … at least by Skype. I’ll dive into a number of reasons I believe that to be the case.
However, there’s another, potentially more dangerous, scenario that a lot of people overlook. Unfortunately, many are paying a very steep price for that.
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Skype calls recorded by Skype: unlikely
I don’t believe Skype (which is now owned by Microsoft) is recording your calls. But theoretically, it would be possible.
Encryption in Skype remains murky. On one hand, Microsoft is pretty clear that instant messaging traffic (text) is sent to its servers as well as the recipient.1 If there’s a Skype-to-Skype connection, it may be encrypted end-to-end, but messages sent to the Skype servers are encrypted only en route, and arrive there unencrypted.
On the other hand, there is no clear statement on audio and video Skype calls. It could be end-to-end encryption, but there are indications2 that, particularly when routed through the Skype servers, the conversation could be visible or audible in unencrypted form.
On top of that, there’s really no reliable way to tell what kind of connection you have, or even if you do have a Skype-to-Skype connection, that the information still isn’t being mirrored to Skype’s servers somehow.
So, while we would like to rely on encryption as a clear indication that there are no Skype calls recorded (at least by Skype), that’s not a conclusion we can make. The technology is potentially recordable by the Skype servers. It’s not confirmed, but we have to assume that it is possible.
Pragmatism rears its ugly head
The fact is, wholesale recording of Skype audio or video calls is simply unfeasible.
Given the amount of data being transferred in an audio call (and even more in a video call), the amount of storage Skype would require to record everything would be enormous. So enormous that in my opinion, wholesale recording of all Skype traffic is quite impractical.
Not to mention that it would be a public relations nightmare if discovered.
So the question then becomes, since they probably don’t record everything, why would they record your conversation?
You and I just aren’t that interesting
In this regard, I point to what I believe boils down to many people’s over-inflated sense of self-importance (and even occasional paranoia).
You and I just aren’t worth the effort. No one cares about your Skype calls or video. Period. They have much better things to do than listen to your mundane conversations.
What if you are really are “interesting”, by someone’s definition? It’s possible – perhaps even likely – that government agencies have access, under certain conditions, to your Skype conversations.
If that’s you, my advice is very simple: don’t use Skype. I don’t have a specific alternative for you, but I expect that several will be recommended by commenters.
Skype calls recorded by someone else: very possible
Here’s a scarier scenario:
- A gentleman is approached by a woman, online.
- They establish some semblance of a “relationship”.
- Part of that relationship involves using video chat.
- Eventually enough trust is built, and the gentleman is convinced to perform salacious acts for his girlfriend on camera.
- Unbeknownst to him, his online “girlfriend” is no friend at all; she, or her handlers, have recorded the conversation.
- They then extort money, threatening to release the video publicly if he doesn’t pay ransom.
I want to be very clear about this: there is no technology that can prevent this.
The person at the other end of your conversation – be it video, audio, instant messaging or email – can record it all, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If they can see it, they can record it.
From what I’ve seen, this type of extortion, which is not limited to Skype at all, is on the rise.
Prevention is as simple as it is low tech: don’t say or do anything on camera (or anywhere online) that you wouldn’t want your mother – or the world – to find out.