VoIP, Skype get EU heat over lawful intercept

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The European Union is looking to tighten up a legal loophole in current lawful intercept (i.e. wiretapping) laws, so that European law enforcement can listen in on phone calls traveling over the Internet. With 27 members of the European Union, each member state has a different approach to data protection and Skype encryption is proving to be a technical hurdle.

Eurojust, the European Union's Judicial Cooperation Unit, will coordinate investigations requiring the use of lawful intercept for VoIP calls; Skype gets a special shout-out in the document. As the coordinating agency, Eurojust will be available to assist all European law enforcement and prosecution "authorities" in the EU, with the goal of overcoming technical and judicial obstacles to the lawful intercept of phone calls over the Internet.

The effort stems from problems Italian authorities are having with criminals using both VoIP and Skype to frustrate investigators, and Skype refusing to unlock its encryption for them: "Skype's encryption system is a secret which the company refuses to share with the authorities." For instance, law enforcement officials in Milan overheard a suspected cocaine smuggler telling one of his cohorts to switch to Skype (what an endorsement!) to get the details of a 2 kilo drug delivery.  Investigators spend "millions of Euros each year" on landline and mobile phone wiretaps.

For more:
- IDG News Service through PC World. Article.
- Eurojust press release.

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