More on the Marriage of the State and the Private Sector

Last week I mentioned the trend of the state and private enterprise merging to assist one another in spying on us. This week it was revealed that Skype was working with the state to place a back door in its software in 2008:

Skype, the Internet-based calling service, began its own secret program, Project Chess, to explore the legal and technical issues in making Skype calls readily available to intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials, according to people briefed on the program who asked not to be named to avoid trouble with the intelligence agencies.

Project Chess, which has never been previously disclosed, was small, limited to fewer than a dozen people inside Skype, and was developed as the company had sometimes contentious talks with the government over legal issues, said one of the people briefed on the project. The project began about five years ago, before most of the company was sold by its parent, eBay, to outside investors in 2009. Microsoft acquired Skype in an $8.5 billion deal that was completed in October 2011.

News like this shouldn’t surprise anybody but the real concern this story raises, as Bruce Schneier pointed out is that Skype denied such allocations previously, meaning they, along with every other tech company, can’t be trusted:

Reread that Skype denial from last July, knowing that at the time the company knew that they were giving the NSA access to customer communications. Notice how it is precisely worded to be technically accurate, yet leave the reader with the wrong conclusion. This is where we are with all the tech companies right now; we can’t trust their denials, just as we can’t trust the NSA — or the FBI — when it denies programs, capabilities, or practices.

We’re in a pretty bad situation since we can’t trust the National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Microsoft, Apple, Google, or anybody else that’s part of this unholy mess of a spying operation.