Skype Offers Secret Calling, End-to-End Encryption

John Lister's picture

Skype has added a new "private conversations" feature. Calls made this way will be encrypted so that it's impossible for anyone to usefully intercept or listen in.

The data for such calls will use end-to-end encryption. That means the data is encrypted on one user's device and kept that way throughout its journey over the Internet until it reaches the other user's device. If the data is intercepted, it won't be of any use.

The system will work on a "conversation" basis rather than a call-by-call basis. One user must select the feature, which will then send an invite to the other user. Once the other user accepts the invite, all messages and calls between them will be encrypted until one of the pair turns off the feature. The encryption will also work on any files sent through Skype as part of the conversation.

Existence Of Calls Also Secret

As well as the data being encrypted, any written messages and records of the calls will be hidden from the normal list on the user's device. It appears that the messages will only be accessible during calls.

There are some significant limitations to the feature. Each user can only take part in one private conversation at a time and only on one device at a time. That means only one-to-one calls can be encrypted.

It is however possible to stop a private conversation and then switch devices (for example, to go from a laptop to a smartphone) but any messages sent or received will be tied to the device they originated on and only during the call. That's in contrast to normal unencrypted messages which can be accessed from any device when the user is logged in to their account. (Source:

Microsoft Can't Decrypt Messages

If, for example, Alan starts a private conversation with Bella and then wants to start a private conversation with Claire, he'll need to end the private conversation with Bella. Any calls he makes to Bella will then be unencrypted until he ends the private conversation with Claire and starts a new one with Bella.

The end-to-end encryption means even Skype-operator Microsoft itself can't read or listen to the conversations. That's good news for users who value privacy, but not such great news for law enforcement officials who believe such a setup makes it harder to monitor suspects. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you have any interest in the private conversations mode? Are the restrictions too much of a hassle? Does it matter than Microsoft can't decrypt the messages or calls, even if a court orders it to do so?
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Chief's picture

Who cares if it makes it harder for the gov to spy?
The entire point of encryption is to ensure privacy.
There are so many repressive governments in this world that often the safest means of survival is healthy paranoia.
Why else do you think encryption was invented millenia ago?