Microsoft Faces New Weighty Responsibilities as VOIP Phone Carrier
News Analysis: Now that Microsoft is on its way to becoming a telephone company, it is finding itself subject to a lot of things that a mere software company never had to deal with.Now that Microsoft is buying Skype, new complications have cropped up that its management may never have thought of when it inked the deal a couple of months ago. While Microsoft obviously knew that it was buying a phone company, did the company's lawyers warn it that this would mean working with a whole new set of government agencies from a whole new direction? For example, phone companies have a legal obligation to provide law enforcement with the ability to tap into conversations. While there's supposed to be a court order to do this, the phone company still has to comply. This is true around the world, which is why India was about to ban BlackBerry devices last year. It's also true in the United States, where the Department of Homeland Security and related agencies use wiretaps on a regular basis to keep tabs on suspected criminals and terrorists.
The ability to tap phones has been around for a long time. But the ability to tap into digital communications has been a tougher nut to crack. First, it was digital cell phone calls, and now the problems center around VOIP (voice over IP). It's hard, but not impossible, to tap a VOIP call, but it helps a lot if you have access to the same switch where the VOIP call originates or terminates.