Private Communication? The iPhone, iPad Meet Skype Video

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Just when you thought your iPhone 4 couldn’t get any cooler, Skype video calls are now available for free on both 3G and wifi networks.

skype

Skype 3.0 also lets users make video calls on the iPhone 3GS and 4th-generation iPod touch, and users can receive video calls on the 3rd-generation iPod touch as well as the iPad — making the ultra-sleek computing tablet significantly more phone-like. However, the ability to have multiple people sharing group video chats — one of the biggest appeal to Skype’s consumer base — is not yet a reality on mobile devices.

The Skype app will continue to offer instant messaging and text messaging, audio-only chats, and the option to pay for calls to landlines and mobile phones.

With video calling representing approximately 40% of all Skype-to-Skype minutes for the first six months of 2010, the company says user requests led it to create Skype video calling for mobile phones. Indeed, Skype has made it possible for millions of people to share video moments wherever they are.

Your Privacy Rights

As intriguing as all of these technological changes are, it’s wise to step back and remember some privacy protocols before delving too carelessly into Skype or any similar video-calling service.

As the company explains on its privacy policy page, your Skype profile may include your Skype user name, full name, address, telephone and mobile numbers, gender, date of birth, country, language, “about me” page URL, and any other information that you decide to make available.

For better online privacy, it’s a good idea to edit some of your personal information by signing into your account page. This will let you view what’s available online, remove non-mandatory information, and fix your privacy settings associated with your profile information so that only the bare minimum is publicly available.

On a larger scale, it’s not yet know what Skype fully knows about your calls or what it reveals to others. For example, Skype automatically records data about calls (but not the message contents) in a “history” file; one study found that a hacker could gain access to the computer and obtain the file. Another study suggested that user traffic was potentially identifiable even after passing through an anonymizing network. And if you’re using Skype on unencrypted wifi networks, you have even more reasons to worry that your information could be hacked.

In other words, as with all online privacy protection warnings, be careful what you share.

Or, as the the Free Software Foundation warns about privacy issues:

“Skype is seducing free software users into using proprietary software, often two users at a time. Using proprietary phone software means that we can’t be sure who is listening in, because we can’t see the code. The Chinese government, for example, was found to have been spying on Skype conversations already, and they are probably not the only ones.”

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi’s manager of digital content strategy.