Microsoft may be skirting Chinese censorship with new Skype

Skype is undergoing changes in China

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China isn't exactly known for its free and open internet policies, but it looks like the new version of Skype may be circumventing Chinese government snooping.

The Microsoft-owned service is under new management in China, having ended its partnership with TOM Online and begun anew with a company called Guangming Founder (GMF).

The Chinese version of Skype previously required all information to be processed by TOM and stored on Chinese servers, but that's no longer the case, according to a report by Chinese web monitoring service GreatFire.

With the latest update to Skype in China, the service says, Skype data is encrypted and sent directly to Microsoft, and with reportedly no more censored keywords (ZDNET cited earlier this year that the Chinese government was monitoring as many as 1,168 keywords on Skype).

The right direction

Another big change is that the Chinese Skype is now using servers located outside the country - but it isn't a guarantee the Chinese government still can't access them.

GreatFire also said that it would be impossible for Chinese authorities to circumvent Microsoft and propagate a counterfeit version of Skype that reinstated its spying mechanisms, since "the software is digitally signed by Microsoft."

All signs point to Microsoft attempting to yank Skype out from under the Chinese government's thumb, but it's unclear how long this will last before authorities take notice.

But for now GreatFire is praising Microsoft. "We hope this is a harbinger of change to come not just from Microsoft but from all major internet players," the service said in its report.

"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."

The latest version of Skype in China will reportedly be available for Windows 8.1 and earlier versions of Mac OS X, Android and iOS.

Via TheNextWeb