Skype today lost its appeal with a Belgian court which fined the company for not handing over user messages — which Skype says would have been effectively impossible.
According to Belgian newspaper Het Belang Van Limburg (and thanks to a translation by The Register), Belgian authorities requested information from the company during a a 2012 investigation into a criminal organization which used Skype to communicate. It offered up metadata, but argued it couldn’t access the specific messages to give the police.
The basis for the Belgian court’s complaint was that a national law requires telecoms companies to comply with data requests. According to the prosecutor, “Skype offers services in our country, so it needs to know the laws. And therefore know that the court may ask interception measures.” Skype’s counter was that it’s not a telecoms company.
Today, a judge with the appeals court in Antwerp supported the ruling of the lower court by saying the company is a telecoms operator, as electronic comms fall under the same category. The judge also upheld the $36,000 legal fine the company is required to pay.
It’s a similar case to the stateside ones involving government attempts to access phone data. Given Skype has a reputation as a popular communication app among cybercriminals, according to my colleague Mix, the company might have to get used to such requests.
According to Reuters, Skype’s parent company Microsoft is looking into further legal options.