Belgian court says Skype must provide interception facilities

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


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. ®


Other stories you might like

  • GPL legal battle: Vizio told by judge it will have to answer breach-of-contract claims
    Fine-print crucially deemed contractual agreement as well as copyright license in smartTV source-code case

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) has won a significant legal victory in its ongoing effort to force Vizio to publish the source code of its SmartCast TV software, which is said to contain GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 copyleft-licensed components.

    SFC sued Vizio, claiming it was in breach of contract by failing to obey the terms of the GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 licenses that require source code to be made public when certain conditions are met, and sought declaratory relief on behalf of Vizio TV owners. SFC wanted its breach-of-contract arguments to be heard by the Orange County Superior Court in California, though Vizio kicked the matter up to the district court level in central California where it hoped to avoid the contract issue and defend its corner using just federal copyright law.

    On Friday, Federal District Judge Josephine Staton sided with SFC and granted its motion to send its lawsuit back to superior court. To do so, Judge Staton had to decide whether or not the federal Copyright Act preempted the SFC's breach-of-contract allegations; in the end, she decided it didn't.

    Continue reading
  • US brings first-of-its-kind criminal charges of Bitcoin-based sanctions-busting
    Citizen allegedly moved $10m-plus in BTC into banned nation

    US prosecutors have accused an American citizen of illegally funneling more than $10 million in Bitcoin into an economically sanctioned country.

    It's said the resulting criminal charges of sanctions busting through the use of cryptocurrency are the first of their kind to be brought in the US.

    Under the United States' International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEA), it is illegal for a citizen or institution within the US to transfer funds, directly or indirectly, to a sanctioned country, such as Iran, Cuba, North Korea, or Russia. If there is evidence the IEEA was willfully violated, a criminal case should follow. If an individual or financial exchange was unwittingly involved in evading sanctions, they may be subject to civil action. 

    Continue reading
  • Meta hires network chip guru from Intel: What does this mean for future silicon?
    Why be a customer when you can develop your own custom semiconductors

    Analysis Here's something that should raise eyebrows in the datacenter world: Facebook parent company Meta has hired a veteran networking chip engineer from Intel to lead silicon design efforts in the internet giant's infrastructure hardware engineering group.

    Jon Dama started as director of silicon in May for Meta's infrastructure hardware group, a role that has him "responsible for several design teams innovating the datacenter for scale," according to his LinkedIn profile. In a blurb, Dama indicated that a team is already in place at Meta, and he hopes to "scale the next several doublings of data processing" with them.

    Though we couldn't confirm it, we think it's likely that Dama is reporting to Alexis Bjorlin, Meta's vice president of infrastructure hardware who previously worked with Dama when she was general manager of Intel's Connectivity group before serving a two-year stint at Broadcom.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022