Last week Facebook announced a new video chat powered by Skype. The question is, what does this mean for privacy?
Facebooks announcement last week of now having the ability to have video chats with friends was a big announcement. It meant that Facebook was doing something other chat systems have had for years. The partnership with Microsoft/Skype (that deal is still pending approval), is logical. The problems that Facebook can face though, have me wary of it.
First off, Facebook doesn’t enforce its own TOS, which has an age limit. We already have heard about cyber bullying cases. The video chat can take this to a new level. What about people pretending to be your children’s age, but really being pedophiles? This now takes on a different issue. There are 2 other things though that bother me about this.
First, encryption of calls. I haven’t had a full chance to play with the system, but nowhere have I seen any mention that the calls will be encrypted. Skype itself uses encryption on the client end, but Skype also is a P2P system, so the encryption happens at a person’s machine. Facebook looks to be a server solution, so are these call being encrypted, or can someone easily look in on them? I know some people are looking into this aspect.
The other troublesome part to me is a patent that Microsoft has from 2009 to silently record calls over a network. With the pending acquisition of Skype, it can be very easy for Microsoft to toss this technology in Skype, and the Facebook chat. think of it, your calls, your video, your “private” conversations, recorded without your consent, without your knowledge, and possibly without a warrant. This is not to say that they will, but the opportunity is there. Not only that, but think of Facebook’s stance on privacy. They have already said that they don’t care about it. People will get used to not having privacy. Imagine the information they can get from your phone calls.
I am not saying that these scenarios will happen, but they are possibilities. Some more likely than others, but they all must be taken into consideration.