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Canadian Researchers have claimed to find a large database, or surveillance system, which reveals China's storage of personal user data and filtering of conversations on Skype.

Citizen Lab, a research group based at the University of Toronto, claims to have found a database of information sent through Skype, consisting of thousands of politically sensitive words which had been blocked by China. Along with stored messages, the database also revealed personal data of Skype users.

The Canadian researchers found over 150,000 messages, which had been saved on the system after being sent through Skype’s modes of telephone and text messaging. “Democracy” and “Tibet” are examples of sensitive words found in some of these stored messages. Some also made reference to Falun Gong, a banned spiritual movement.

Personal data on Skype’s users also existed within the surveillance system. According to Citizen Lab, when entering one username into the database, it was possible to view all the people who had contact with this one user, whether those in contact had acted as a sender of messages or a recipient.

In their report entitled “Breaching Trust”, Citizen Lab continued to explain this lack of privacy; "These text messages, along with millions of records containing personal information, are stored on insecure publicly accessible web servers."

Skype, run as Tom-Skype in China, exists as a joint venture between eBay and TOM-Online, a private Chinese Internet company. Although Skype had always been open about its Chinese partners’ monitoring of information, it did share concern of breaches in the site’s security.

Citizen Lab went on to describe Tom as clearly "engaging in extensive surveillance with seemingly little regard for the security and privacy of Skype users".

According to Josh Silverman, Skype President, China’s surveillance was “common knowledge” and Tom Online “established procedures to meet local laws and regulations” including “the requirement to monitor and block instant messages containing certain words deemed offensive by the Chinese authorities.”

Silverman also explained that Tom Online's policy previously included blocking specific messages and then deleting them. He said he would be investigating why the allowance came in for the company to store those messages, rather than to dispose of them.



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This is news?
By amanojaku on 10/6/2008 8:47:42 PM , Rating: 5
I'm willing to bet the Chinese government has stool and urine samples of every citizen, past and present. I love the title of the report, too. "Breaching Trust." Do the Chinese actually trust their government? Ha! They're probably happy they haven't been murdered yet in the name of public safety and decency.




RE: This is news?
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 10/6/2008 11:04:03 PM , Rating: 5
There are just as many who believe China is the greatest thing since sliced bread, because thats what the Government wants them to believe. Everyone is born and bred to be a supporter of the cause. Not a bad strategy if your in the government or on their good side, sucks if you interested in liberty and freedom though.


RE: This is news?
By mmntech on 10/7/2008 6:57:04 PM , Rating: 2
A little brainwashing goes a long way. One thing is for sure, George Orwell was right, he just put Oceania in the wrong part of the world. If monitoring phone calls is the worst thing the PRC does, I'll eat my own head.

It boggles my mind how we in the West can support that government, especially after years of blasting the Soviet Union for doing essentially the same thing. Especially all that garbage about why we shouldn't boycott the Olympics because it "hurts athletes". What rubbish. When did we become so cowardly? I guess cheap junk is more important than basic freedom. I'm not advocating we go to war with them or nuke them but by the same token, we shouldn't be molly coddling them either.


RE: This is news?
By Screwballl on 10/7/08, Rating: 0
RE: This is news?
By FITCamaro on 10/7/2008 12:09:25 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
(and many times nicer than these native born Amercians who expect everything to be owed to them).


I seem to recall hundreds of thousands of them protesting in the streets of our cities saying that they are owed citizenship because they are here. And that many of them think they are entitled to the same benefits as citizens of this country.


RE: This is news?
By JasonMick (blog) on 10/7/2008 12:50:02 PM , Rating: 3
I think Chinese illegal immigration and Mexican illegal immigration are two different beasts.

The Chinese type is largely due to political reasons, which are outside our control.

However, the Mexican illegal immigration problem is very fixable, its just nobody seems to want to fix it. Basically it boils down to that there's a gross economic disparity between our two countries and then there's this double standard/blind eye on illegal immigration.

I'm not saying its the government's job to step in and fix this disparity. Rather I wish more companies would be like Siemens, one of my former employers and build plants in Mexico, increasing its citizens' standard of living.

Until Mexico is more prosperous there will be no solution to the illegal immigration problem. Its like building a series of mansions next to a slum. You can put up fences or pass nice neighborhood rules, but nothing is going to stop people from breaking into your cozy mansion -- they're desperate.


RE: This is news?
By clovell on 10/7/2008 2:13:38 PM , Rating: 2
I say either give them some basic rights (not the same as citizens), or do something besides pissing in the wind to make sure they don't get in.

There are some crooked Americans that take advantage of some of these people often because they don't have access to the criminal justice system. The loophole needs to be closed to protect the dignity of these people.

Which side you close it on is up to you, and I'm not going to argue for either side here. BUT! it's a problem that needs to be addressed, and not simply bitched about.

Feel free to downrate.


RE: This is news?
By omnicronx on 10/8/2008 10:04:02 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
They are like Mexicans, its not only one or two, it is usually the whole extended family.
How on earth do you think your family came over? In pieces? One at a time? I can see you are not trying to say this in a derogatory way, but immigration today is not so different than it was 250 years ago. And lets face it, up until the 40's it was damn impossible for Chinese and Japanse families to get into north america. Canada for example used to have a head tax that was 15x20 the amount of the average yearly salary for a Chinese person to bring one family member to Canada.
quote:
(and many times nicer than these native born Americans who expect everything to be owed to them).
This is because most immigrants do not take what they have for granted, I can't say the same for many North Americans.


By phxfreddy on 10/6/2008 7:30:40 PM , Rating: 1
......we would be talking and all of a sudden he would say

CUBA CUBA CUBA

So a nice variant would be to get the list of words and talk to someone in China and after going along normally interjecting

TIBET TIBET TIBET - falong GONG GONG GONG




By tastyratz on 10/7/2008 9:00:15 AM , Rating: 2
Kind of like when you make a post someplace or talk online using the words "bomb" and "president"

Yay I'm on a list.

I do that all the time with my friends.

I am sure in the USA we have similar things, it just seems that China is sloppy enough to get caught lately.

What I wonder about is how far the rabbit hole goes. I wonder if anyone has been persecuted based on this information (or just put on a list) and I wonder how much sensitive information pertains to members of other countries.

Was this in place during the Olympics? I bet Skype lit up like a Christmas tree there while it was going on. I wonder how many foreign visitors calling family at home have been impacted.


By sixeight on 10/14/2008 11:36:48 PM , Rating: 2
That's the first thing I thought of after reading this article - the Olympic Games just recently being in Beijing. It's all very strange to think about.


Question
By clovell on 10/7/2008 2:15:38 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not reallys too saavy when it comes to this kind of stuff, but how much skype traffic is routed internationally through China? Are they only spying on domestic calls, or could it be the case that Americans are having their calls logged?




RE: Question
By AnnihilatorX on 10/7/2008 6:33:17 PM , Rating: 2
No. Majority of West-East Internet traffic are routed through Hong Kong or Taiwan.


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