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1 Oct 2008

Nart Villeneuve, the Citizen Lab, Munk Centre for International Studies, the University of Toronto

[PDF] Breaching Trust: An analysis of surveillance and security practices on China’s TOM-Skype platform

…Major Findings: The full text chat messages of TOM-Skype [joint venture Skype & TOM Group] users, along with Skype [part of eBay] users who have communicated with TOM-Skype users, are regularly scanned for sensitive keywords, and if present, the resulting data are uploaded and stored on servers in China; These text messages, along with millions of records containing personal information, are stored on insecure publicly-accessible web servers…; The captured messages contain specific keywords relating to sensitive political topics such as Taiwan independence, the Falun Gong, and political opposition to the Communist Party of China; Our analysis suggests that the surveillance is not solely keyword-driven…[T]here may be criteria, such as specific usernames, that determine whether messages are captured by the system.