Jan. 24, 2013 at 3:40 PM ET
As Skype becomes more and more integrated with Microsoft's other products, privacy advocates around the world have asked it and its parent company to come clean on how, when and why the widely used video chatting program complies with government requests for information.
The request comes in the form of an open letter Thursday, addressed to Skype's president and Microsoft's chief privacy officer and general counsel, and is signed by dozens of organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Digital Rights Foundation.
People all over the world use Skype, including not just distant friends and family members, but journalists and activists for whom the secure and private chat platform is indispensable, the organizations say. And since Skype's takeover, there hasn't been a clear line on whether the service would remain that way.
Since 2011, when Microsoft purchased Skype for $8.5 billion, there have been relatively few bugs and breaches in the service. But at the same time, no information has been publicized that details what information Skype collects, how it protects it, and with whom that information is shared.
In the letter, the signers ask for regular reports, like those put out by Google and Twitter, describing requests for information made by the government or private individuals. Details on what information is vulnerable to (or protected from) network providers and hackers are also suggested, and a statement on how Skype plans to cooperate with certain information-collection and wiretapping laws in the U.S. and China.
A Microsoft spokesperson declined to address the questions of the letter specifically, but offered the following statement to NBC News:
We are reviewing the letter. Microsoft has an ongoing commitment to collaborate with advocates, industry partners and governments worldwide to develop solutions and promote effective public policies that help protect people's online safety and privacy.
The letter can be read in its entirety here; references and links are at the bottom of the page.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBCNews Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.