Business

Policy

Belgian court says Skype must provide interception facilities

Microsoft classified as a telco, so told to cough up. It may gaufre an appeal

By Richard Chirgwin

37 SHARE

Skype has failed in its appeal against a 2016 fine in Belgium for failing to help authorities tap calls in a criminal investigation, with the court saying it must comply with the country's telecommunications laws.

Last year, a court in Mechelen imposed the €30,000 fine, because Skype was unable to hand over anything more than metatadata to law enforcement.

The case started with a year 2012 investigation into a criminal gang that used Skype to communicate. The Microsoft-owned VoIP and messaging system operated in a peer-to-peer model at the time, making its encryption impenetrable to the company and law enforcement authorities alike.

Microsoft argued that the court's desires were technically impossible, and also that as a software provider it wasn’t subject to Belgium’s telecommunications laws. Both arguments were rejected by the Mechelen court, so it filed an appeal.

The court of appeals in Antwerp yesterday (November 15) rejected Skype’s appeal and confirmed the fine. Reuters reported the judge ruled that Microsoft qualified as a telecommunications provider.

Belgium’s Nieuwsblad.be quoted the decision: “An operator or service provider who targets Belgian consumers on the Belgian economic market must comply with Belgian regulations and must organize themselves in such a way that they can easily comply with the court’s claims”.

That looks ominous, because it suggests the courts can outlaw services who use strong encryption, if they don’t also provide wiretap facilities.

The court also said Skype agreed that interception could be possible with “necessary technical adjustments”. It is unclear if that means “if you remove the encryption”.

Microsoft told Reuters it will consider further legal action. ®

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily

37 Comments

More from The Register

Skype Classic headed for the chopping block on September 1

You will learn to love version 8, whether you like it or not

Skype for Biz users: Go watch nature vids. Microsoft wants you to get good at migration

New roadmap for Teams does everything but name Skype's death date

Wah, encryption makes policing hard, cries UK's National Crime Agency

Ever since Snowden it's been the default – report

Even Microsoft's lost interest in Windows Phone: Skype and Yammer apps killed

Use iOS or Android, says Redmond, as telephony APIs sprout in Windows

Microsoft finally injects end-to-end chat crypto into Skype – ish...

If you sign up to be a tester

Skype for Business has nasty habit of closing down… for business

It's not just you, VoIP app is prone to failures

That terrifying 'unfixable' Microsoft Skype security flaw: THE TRUTH

Oh yeah, we patched that in October, Windows giant yawns

Can't login to Skype? You're not alone. Chat app's been a bit crap for five days now

Something something two-factor authentication – Microsoft

Microsoft says Skype outages are over – a few hours too early

Global Skype outages spill over onto a second day

Australian Senate passes meaningless motion that says encryption is very useful

Token effort won't stop not-backdoors legislation