Small step for Microsoft - huge improvement for Chinese users

Skype.com is again redirecting users in China to websites controlled by Chinese companies. This time, however, all user calls, chats and login information are encrypted and being communicated directly to Microsoft via HTTPS. 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.

We still want to ask Microsoft to explain the differences between the Chinese and international versions of Skype. Does the new China version of Skype have more surveillance capabilities than the global version? We would also like the company to reference the specific “Chinese regulations” that they plan on following with their new joint venture partner.

The newly launched joint GMF-Skype website offers a special Chinese version download  which was launched in a partnership with Guangming Founder (GMF).

This version is different from the international version of Skype that supports Chinese. The file is hosted by the Chinese joint venture partner in a server located in China. However, unlike its previous joint venture arrangement with Tom, it would appear that Microsoft has taken full control of the China version of Skype. The software is digitally signed by Microsoft, which means Microsoft and Microsoft alone is responsible for the software’s code. The Chinese authorities cannot provide counterfeit software to users in China.

 

Analysis of the current Chinese version of Skype 6.11.99.102

We’ve analyzed the communications the special Chinese clients make. All communications are outside of China and are located in Singapore, the U.S and Ireland. Tom Skype was notorious for monitoring chat history and uploading user information but it seems that with the current GMF-Skype version, there are no censored keywords.

 

 

A breakdown of Skype download urls appears below. The appendix “gmw” refers to the name of Microsoft’s joint venture partner on Skype. This, too, is a special version, numbered “6.11.99.455”. The China version of Skype for Windows users is hosted on the special GMF-Skype website for China.

 

OS Version Download Address
China Windows 6.11.99.102

http://skype.gmw.cn/software/SkypeSetupFull.6.11.99.102.exe

International Windows 6.11.0.102

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype

China Mac OS 6.11.99.455

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-macosx-gmf

International Mac OS 6.11.59.455

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-macosx

    

The GMF help center states that the GMF version of Skype offers end to end encryption. The policy is a direct translation of the Skype international privacy policy.

使用Skype 安全吗: 完全安全。Skype 采用了端对端的加密方式,保证信息的安全性. Skype在信息(语音、即时消息、文件)发送之前进行加密,在接收到的时候进行解密,即使在数据传输过程中需要经过其他节点进行中转,也完全没有可能在中途被窃听。

In the meantime, skype.tom.com changed its page title from “Skype简体中文版官方网站 (Official website of Skype Chinese version)”


to “Skype充值中心 (Skype Refill Center)”. The site does indeed offer pre-paid refill cards for Tom Skype.  


The only link Tom took down is the login page for Tom-Skype:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:l_pObCn6T6YJ:skype....

as opposed to:

http://skype.tom.com/

The Tom Skype web site (skype.tom.com) is, at the time of publishing this story, not redirecting users or offering a link to the new version of Skype which suggests that Tom’s split with Microsoft was not amicable. We strongly suggest that all Tom Skype users immediately delete their current versions and upgrade to the new GMF-Skype. Microsoft should also make an effort to trumpet their newest version of Skype to users based in China.

 

Comments

More Blog Posts

Subscribe to our mailing list
Show content from Blog | Google+ | Twitter | All. Subscribe to our blog using RSS.

Wed, Mar 19, 2014

Bing Bests Baidu Censorship

Abstract

Independent research from Xia Chu has shown that, in addition to non-China content, Bing censors a vast amount of content that is hosted inside China and which is not censored by China-based internet companies like Baidu. After communicating our issues with Microsoft, Bing removed certain censorship rules (kudos to Bing), but much work remains to be done.

We recently called for Microsoft to release its transparency report for Bing (as have others - full disclosure, Rebecca sits on our advisory board).  Microsoft has yet to respond to this request. But Xia’s independent research of Bing’s China censorship policy could be regarded as a de facto transparency report for the search engine.

In this thorough study, the results of which we have verified, Xia examined Bing's SERP (search engine results page) for over 30,000 sensitive and nonsensitive query terms, and launched these queries from both inside and outside of China. Comparing and examining these results, plus querying with special search operators, reveals unprecedented detail on Bing's China filtering practices.

The main findings from Xia’s research include:

  • Bing has a list of “forbidden” terms where no results are shown. 139 such terms have been identified.

  • Bing has a blacklist of websites that it never shows to China users. 329 such websites are identified. (5 have been lifted after our communication with Microsoft.)

Thu, Feb 13, 2014

Setting Bing's Broken Record Straight

We can also now trace complicit Bing Chinese censorship back to 2009 as highlighted by Nicholas Kristof. It looks like Microsoft has indeed changed its censorship mechanism after our research made headlines this week. But Bing is still seriously flawed on two fronts: its algorithm favors pro-Chinese government websites by default on all search terms in simplified Chinese and their front end mistakenly delivers explicit censorship of search results on some search terms for users from all over the world.

Wed, Feb 12, 2014

No error here: Microsoft deploying Chinese censorship on global scale

Microsoft says: “The results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China”. This is simply not true.

Tue, Feb 11, 2014

Bing practicing Chinese censorship globally

Our latest research indicates that Microsoft’s search engine Bing is censoring English and Chinese language search on its home page in order to exclude certain results. We have also noticed that Bing is practicing subtle censorship with search results. In both instances, Bing is filtering out links and stories that the Chinese authorities would deem damaging.

Thu, Jan 23, 2014

Massive blocking of foreign media in China

After Tuesday’s report Leaked Records Reveal Offshore Holdings of China’s Elite by ICIJ, China blocked a number of major newspaper websites. All websites below were blocked after publishing copies of the original report. They're all listed as the publishing partners for “Chinaleaks” stories on ICIJ's website. The Great Firewall rarely blocks non-Chinese websites. Many of them have published the Chinese version of the report which probably explains the unusual development.

Newspaper

Main Language

Article

http://www.icij.org

English

Chinese

http://www.theguardian.com

English

Subscribe to our blog using RSS.

Comments

目前国际版的 Skype 最新版本好像是 6.11.59.102

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-full 轻松下载国际版Skype独立安装程序,初装、升级都用它,哈哈。

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-full 轻松下载国际版Skype独立安装程序,初装、升级都用它,哈哈。

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-full 轻松下载国际版Skype独立安装程序,初装、升级都用它,哈哈。

http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-full 轻松下载国际版Skype独立安装程序,初装、升级都用它,哈哈。

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.