Luxembourg is home to several of the world’s best-known technology brands thanks to its business-friendly tax structure and low sales tax. But Luxembourg also has a constitution which enshrines individuals’ right to privacy and makes it clear that communications are regarded as secret unless the law says otherwise. Access to secret communications data can only be granted by a judge or a Prime Minister-appointed tribunal.
Skype, the Microsoft-owned Internet communications business, is based in Luxembourg and appeared in some of the papers leaked by Edward Snowden. Now, according to The Guardian, it’s being investigated by Luxembourg’s data protection commissioner.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype tripled some types of data flow to NSA, according to top-secret documents seen by the Guardian. In July last year, nine months after Microsoft the internet phone company, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism.
According to The Guardian, Skype, which once had a reputation for evading eaves-dropping by the authorities, received a directive in February 2011 signed by the US Attorney General and ordering it to comply with NSA requests.
Within days, the spy agency reported that it had successfully eavesdropped on a Skype call. And when Microsoft acquired Skype in May 2011, the relationship with the NSA appears to have intensified.
Skype first became part of the NSA’s Prism programme following its sale by eBay to a group of private equity firms, but it seems it was the acquisition by Microsoft which was the catalyst for the mass-monitoring of calls.