Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

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Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Sophira on Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:42 am

I just made a post on my Dreamwidth journal about why I'm not going to be using Skype any more, but I'm at a loss for what to actually use instead.

This is especially relevant for TWWF because Skype was basically invaluable in the process of making the ARG, and I wanted to bring other puppetmasters' attention to this too. (Obviously, I can't do this using Skype's own chat system any more.)

Here's the post:

Sophira's Dreamwidth wrote:If you use Skype, you may have noticed the number of people online on your contacts list dwindling a little lately.

I myself was signed out of Skype last night. I can no longer log in; my old version of Skype, 5.10, is now considered to be too old.

I can't say I'm *entirely* surprised about this; I was given ample warning that this would happen, and I just didn't heed it because the older version still worked long past the cutoff dates given to me. Unfortunately, this has left me with the problem of how to tell everybody that I'm probably not going to be using it any more. This is a shame, because I actually used it quite a lot.

Why will I not be using it any more? Why can't I just update to the newest version?

Well, for some people the answer will be that they're still using Windows XP, which the newer versions of Skype don't support. That's not the case for me, but if you know that a contact of yours has Windows XP and you haven't heard from them for a bit, that may be why.

But no, the thing for me is that I've been hearing a lot about how Skype is connected to the NSA. I probably don't need to explain why this is a bad thing, but it's possible some people reading this may not realise that the NSA collects data about you in bulk, including recording audio of phone calls, recording IMs, web sites you visit, and a lot of other things. Recently news came out that they were targetting the privacy-conscious.

To put it lightly, the NSA are violating your privacy quite deliberately and knowingly - even if you live in the US. (The NSA's states that it only applies data gathering to foreign countries, but I'm willing to bet that there are sites you visit that aren't sited in the US. Same applies if you live outside of the US and thought you were safe; if you use sites sited in the US (note: Dreamwidth is such a site), then the NSA is interested in you.

The NSA also lies about how much data is collected. It was thought that the NSA "only" recorded metadata about phone calls such as time/date, phone numbers of each party, etc. Turns out that's untrue; apparently, "At least 80 percent of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US". I am a little doubtful about that figure (and there is no evidence for this, unlike with Edward Snowden's leaked files), but if the figure is off then it probably isn't off by much. Even if the figure was 60%, that's still a frighteningly large amount.

I see no reason to believe that Skype is exempt from this, especially as there are news stories about Skype being connected to the NSA. (The linked article is just one such article.)

I also found out today that Skype comes pre-installed with Windows 8.1, which follows their phase-out of Windows Live Messenger (also known by many as MSN Messenger). This makes Skype an incredibly attractive target for not just the NSA but also for hacking/cracking groups. Mostly the NSA, though.

So what is someone to do? I believe I can no longer use Skype as a permanent solution. Note that using an alternative Skype client will not solve the problem; any recording of data would be server-side, so it really doesn't matter what client you use to connect to it. (Not that Skype has exactly had the best of compatibility with third-party clients anyway.)

Does anyone have any ideas?


I would be interested in hearing any ideas from people here, too! You can also comment directly on my journal if you prefer.
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby JRPictures on Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:52 am

Wow, I guess this shows how out of touch I've been with Skype and news like this lately.

Hell I haven't even logged into Skype in ages. Maybe I should and clear some details off.

Still this is sucky news, the NSA shouldn't be taking info like that at all.
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby narrativedilettante on Fri Aug 01, 2014 9:01 am

I read this just at a time when I've been trying to become a more active and proficient Skype user. (This means I have added a whole three contacts over the past week or so and received one message.)

I don't personally use anything that I would consider a Skype alternative... maybe Google Hangouts would work for you?
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Sophira on Fri Aug 01, 2014 10:12 am

Honestly, Google Hangouts is probably worse; I'm trying to move away from Google too as they already know far too much information about me, and the NSA probably have ways to get data from that too.
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby JRPictures on Fri Aug 01, 2014 10:58 am

Sophira wrote:Honestly, Google Hangouts is probably worse; I'm trying to move away from Google too as they already know far too much information about me, and the NSA probably have ways to get data from that too.

Geez with the way things are going, nowhere on the internet will be safe and private to use.

It's sad really.
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Qara-Xuan Zenith on Fri Aug 01, 2014 11:34 am

Yeah I would consider google hangouts to be super sketchy if not for information-gathering purposes then because it requires you to make a google+ account (which I disabled shortly after google+ started existing, because they ran it in a super invasive and sketchy way).

Um... I don't know if I'm qualified for suggesting skype alternatives because I don't use skype very often, certainly not often enough to know what all the requirements for being a skype-alternative would be. That said, both steam and dolby axon (which I like because I got to both from being forced by people here) support both text and voice chat, to varying degrees (i.e., dolby is very good with voice and so-so with text, steam is excellent with text and patchy with voice). I don't think I need to add that in terms of using it as a chat where a whole number of people can be part of the conversation, and drift on and off online without losing the logs of the conversation with minimal inconvenience, neatchat is quite lovely, but I'll add that anyway.
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Sophira on Fri Aug 01, 2014 12:03 pm

Yeah, I've never had a Google+ profile either.
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Sophira on Fri Aug 01, 2014 2:04 pm

To be clear, btw, the 80% figure is about all phone calls, not Skype particularly, though as I said, I don't see any reason why Skype wouldn't be included in that.
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Pixelmage on Fri Aug 01, 2014 4:42 pm

Uhm, I particularly have grown fond of Dolby Axom. As far as I know, it doesn't do VoIP nor video, or at least not that I've tried. It lacks a good text log, but other than that it feels less clunky for pure voice chat peer-to-peer, and still allows text. In case you make an account, we do have a permanent voice room with pretty much everyone from here (snipe Sicon for an invite, since you can't browse for rooms in Dolby).

As far as video and VoIP goes, though... I have no clue. I don't videochat and I never needed to use VoIP so I never looked into it.
Last edited by Pixelmage on Fri Aug 01, 2014 8:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Qara-Xuan Zenith on Fri Aug 01, 2014 5:38 pm

Oh another good program for making phone calls to actual phones over the internet is a cell phone app called magicJack. It also used to have a thingy you could plug into a computer to make calls from a computer but I don't know if it still does that.

I've used magicJack and it works fairly well and is a free app (it can also assign you a phone number so that when you make calls with the app they're always from that number).
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Blurred_9L on Fri Aug 01, 2014 7:38 pm

If the problem was IM only, I'm sure you could use Telegram, which is like WhatsApp, but you can also access messages from computers. It claims it's messages are encrypted and stuff, but I haven't really tried using it, so I can say for sure. .-.
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Dryunya on Sat Aug 02, 2014 4:10 am

JRPictures wrote:Geez with the way things are going, nowhere on the internet will be safe and private to use.

It's sad really.

This, so much. I don't think there's a way for a user to be safe from eavesdropping without resorting to tinfoil-hat-level privacy measures like I2P, and even then you're not 100% safe. :cry:
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Pixelmage on Sat Aug 02, 2014 1:17 pm

But on the subject of privacy, there's the matter of information overflow and BigData. See, in order to keep track of all that stuff, it needs to be stored somewhere; physically registered in some sort of storage medium.

Sure, it's not a big deal to store a few hundred Gigabytes of data on my favorite show, like hoarding fanart, trailers, digital releases and whatnot... But once you get on the task of trying to monitor people's movements the required amount of storage space required skyrockets.

Trying to save skype video calls, for example, would be unwieldy at best. Then it comes to a question of using it. Computers are dumber than rocks; they're just fast. But there's a limit to their speed too. Even if a group of people has access to yottabytes of data on human beings there's simply no way a human can analyse it; and the BigData problem only shows that computers can't either. At the end of the day, there are only two things that can be done with that volume of information.

First is metrics. Much like google does with AdSense. Take all the information about you and create a grouping like Male-Brazilian-YoungAdult-Gamer and poll the database for the most-accessed content that fits those criteria in order to offer the Ads you're mathematically more likely to click; rather than what appears to be them watching over your shoulder with a devious smirk.

Second is watching over people's shoulder with a devious smirk. :P
Fine, let me explain, much like scanning the massive database for metrics, you could zoom in on a particular individual or a particular metric to dissect it. No way around needing human input here, computers can find the data, but they can't interpret the information in this sense. And for this, the only people who are actually in trouble are Persons of Interest. Say you're flagged as a potential terrorist due to a metric overlap between your data and that of a known terrorist; then it would be on any security agency's head to scan your life for evidence on it. If you're politically influential, you're a target. If you're economically influential, you're a target. If you're a nobody, you're a bunch of dusty bits on a hard drive mixed with unfathomably more bits that are uncannily similar to yourself.

And then comes the self-defeating point of this particular scenario where the government knows all about everyone's lives: Each governments needs their own agency for that. Spies don't trust other spies; if one agency says something based on their yottas of data, the only way you're going to believe it, from a standpoint of an agency without access to the database, is if you can poll the same result off your own yottas of data. Yotta to the Yotta and the problem of storage raises to its own power, basically. Oh, and it's needless to say that someone who actually has an acceptably decent BigData algorithm is not going to share it with the competition, right? So every interested party has to figure out the wheel, and it is one hella complex wheel. Not to mention prohibitively expensive.

Of course, I'm not saying that it's unnecessary to take steps to improve privacy or that we might as well just fill out a form for interested spywork parties; I'm just pointing out that even assuming they can collect data, unless you're personally of interest on the grand strategy level of things, they're not going to be able to use it to the Minority Report degree of laser guided prediction people seem to be afraid of.

That said, I'm all for wasting their work and ditching the services they prioritize; just for trolls if nothing else. :3 And what they manage to get anyway, well, the more useless Data they get is still more Data they need to slog through. And the volume is only ever going to increase. :twisted:
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Scarab on Sat Aug 02, 2014 2:12 pm

Okay. Um.

I... hate to be the annoying person around here, I'm certain this is very well researched and thought out on our dear Soph's part... but I read enough of that post to severely terrify myself about my online activity (given my tendency to stream and post video content) and when I'm frightened like that I tend to lose a number of higher cognitive functions required for understanding the rest of it. Long story short I am now in a state of nervous panic.

So... Would it be possible for somebody to tl:dr this for me?
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Pixelmage on Sat Aug 02, 2014 2:18 pm

Scarab wrote:So... Would it be possible for somebody to tl:dr this for me?


No need to panic. *soothes*

Laconic -
Soph considers it to be better to avoid Skype because of their privacy policy decisions.
I wall'o'text'd about why I think it's not necessary to do anything extreme for privacy.
Nothing major happened.
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Scarab on Sat Aug 02, 2014 2:19 pm

Pixelmage wrote:Soph considers it to be better to avoid Skype because of their privacy policy decisions.
I wall'o'text'd about why I think it's not necessary to do anything extreme for privacy.
Nothing major happened.


Except the NDA collecting all my Data :| Don't forget our copyright laws are... somewhat more stringent than Americas (yes, I know, that sounds insane but it's actually true.)
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby eli_gone_crazy on Sun Aug 03, 2014 9:34 am

Basically, the old rules still apply. Don't put anything on the internet you aren't comfortable with other people knowing.
It is likely that government agencies are collecting data. IF they are, then they are left with the problem of sorting through massive amounts of nothing to get one bit of tangible information. Unless you are drastically important to whatever they think is important, nothing will happen.

It's okay to not use Skype, I think Sophi is being really smart. I will continue to use it, however, because from my standpoint, anything as readily available and cohesive as Skype will already be dealing with the same privacy issues. Otherwise, *shrugs*

As for copyright laws, I'm confused as to why you are worried about that (unless you mean art/idea theft, in which case you have the original data/timestamps and would win?)
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Re: Skype - and why I'm not going to be using it any more

Postby Rick Healey on Mon Aug 04, 2014 8:58 am

Well, I can say that I've been starting to use Mumble, and I find it much nicer than Dolby Axon (which I find to drop frequently and have lower audio quality than several others). The downside is that I've only used it for live chats; I don't know how it handles text or peer-to-peer communication.
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