Monday

22nd Jan 2018

Eurojust supports wire-tapping of Skype conversations

  • The EU wants to eavesdrop internet calls. (Photo: European Commission)

EU's judicial cooperation agency Eurojust will take the lead in finding ways to help police and prosecutors across Europe to wiretap computer-to-computer phone conversations enabled by programs such as Skype.

"We will sit together with all member states to see how this can be done technically and legally," Joannes Thuy, Eurojust spokesman told this website.

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Mr Thuy stressed that the wiretapping would not affect "normal users", but would have to be carried out only as part of a criminal investigation.

Eurojust's talks with prosecutors and police officials from member states, as well as legal experts would be led by Italian prosecutor Carmen Manfreda.

"There are 30 different legal systems all across the EU, so we expect the talks to take several months before first results are presented," Mr Thuy added.

Skype, an Danish-Swedish business developed by Estonian programmers that was sold to E-Bay in 2005 and has over 350 million customers worldwide, is said to be un-spyable by intelligence services.

In its press release, Eurojust says that "Skype has so far refused to share its encryption system with national authorities."

However, Skype claims that it has "extensively debriefed Eurojust on our law enforcement programme and capabilities."

"Skype cooperates with law enforcement where legally and technically possible. Skype remains interested in working with Eurojust despite the fact that they chose not to contact us before issuing this inaccurate report," Brian O'Shaughnessy, head of corporate communications at Skype said in a statement.

The Italian anti-mafia prosecutors requested Eurojust to coordinate this initiative, pointing that criminals in Italy were increasingly making phone calls over the internet in order to avoid getting caught through mobile wiretapping.

Bavarian authorities allegedly also attempted to wiretap Skype conversations and commissioned an IT firm to do this, but were not successful, according to documents obtained by Piraten Party, a movement promoting Internet freedom.

According to Eurojust, customs and tax police in Milan have overheard a suspected cocaine trafficker telling an accomplice to switch to Skype in order to get details of a 2kg drug consignment.

Eurojust retracts Skype wiretapping plans

In an apparent U-turn, the EU's judicial cooperation body has said it is not officially examining ways to wire-tap Skype and other computer-to-computer conversations.

Rights NGOs face fresh threats in EU

While ongoing crackdowns in Poland and Hungary have put the spotlight on rights groups, NGOs are now under new political and financial pressure across the EU, the Fundamental Rights Agency said.

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