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Is Skype a Telecom Company or a Software Company? The Answer Determines Whether They Have to Turn Over Call Records: eDiscovery Trends

Many of us have used Skype to communicate with friends or business colleagues (or maybe both). Can Skype be compelled to turn over those call records? Not if they can help it.

According to ZDNet, Skype, now owned by Microsoft, has been summoned to appear in court in Belgium after it refused to share call records to help a criminal investigation. A court in north Belgium demanded that messages and calls from Skype be provided to prosecutors under the country’s telecommunications laws. In Belgium, phone providers, like Deutsche Telecom and other mobile operators, are required to hand over data when requested.

Only Skype, based in Luxembourg, doesn’t see itself as a phone provider and, according to the article, a court spokesperson told Reuters that the judicial question is “whether Skype is a telecoms operator,” which could determine the company’s future status in the country. If Skype is classed as a telecoms operator, it will be forced to hand over the data and likely pay a fine. That would also mean opening up its networks to future wiretap and eavesdropping demands.

Last year, France referred Skype to prosecutors for investigation after failing to register as a telecom company in according with the country’s laws, stating that it had “on several occasions” asked Skype to “declare itself an electronic communications operator,” but it had not done so. French regulator Autorité de Régulation des Communications Électroniques et des Postes (ARCEP) argued that regardless of which device a voice communications came from, it constitutes a “telephone service.”

Skype had previously come under pressure for its links to China-based TOM Online, which some privacy groups believe could be used to spy on and censor its users. It will be interesting to see how effectively Skype can fight the efforts from two European companies to submit to regulations turn over its data on demand.

So, what do you think? Should Skype be considered a telecom company and should they be required to turn over call data to countries as requested? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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