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Microsoft’s pivot on Skype in China could lead to increased privacy

A new version of Skype developed specifically for users based in China will reportedly provide Chinese Skypers with increased privacy freedoms. There’s more to this than a new version of Skype though.

Microsoft ended its relationship with TOM Online, a Chinese Internet firm that processed all the information associated with Skype use in China through its servers there, which is pretty devoid of any privacy safeguards. Now, Microsoft is working to make use of servers located outside of China’s borders. On top of that, all communications data, whether it’s call or text, will be processed straight through Microsoft. This could increase the amount of privacy that China-based Skype users enjoy once the changes are completed.

Here’s what GreatFire, a Chinese Internet monitoring outfit, had to say.

“This is a complete about face for Microsoft from the Tom Skype era, when all information was processed by Tom and stored by Tom on servers located in China with absolutely no privacy controls in place. We praise Microsoft for making this change. We hope this is a harbinger of change to come not just from Microsoft but from all major internet players. It appears that Microsoft is indeed fighting back against censorship in China. We have been very critical of Microsoft and Skype in the past but today we applaud this development.”

If this move indeed leads to increased privacy for Chinese citizens using Skype, this in conjunction with Google exec Eric Schmidt’s comments about social networks and liberalization in China could have the Chinese government pretty steamed, which could lead to crackdowns. Stay tuned.