I’ve always meant this blog to serve as a resource for Skype for Business use. Both for users and for administrators…leaning a bit more toward administrators. Not today though. Today I’m leaning over to the user side, to answer common questions about privacy in Skype for Business.
Where did I find these questions? You asked them. Yes, you, right there.
Like I do (at least) monthly, I went through Google Search Console to examine this blog’s data. In the Queries data, I found a large group of fully-formed questions. People asking simple, direct questions about Skype for Business.
Questions everyone from basic users to admins might have. Questions that I can answer in just a few lines. Thus they don’t need their own posts…but they do need answering.
Solution: Group them together! Write up a resource post where you can find several answers in one spot. Which brings us here. This is the first group of questions I found. They all have one thing in common: Privacy.
Group Post 1: Privacy Questions & Answers
These are the 5 most-asked privacy questions on Skype for Business. My answers come from our own experiences deploying & supporting hybrid and on-prem Skype for Business Servers.
“Are Skype for Business calls recorded?”
Only if you record them. The Monitoring Server does collect data on call connections & quality, but not their contents.
“Are Skype for Business conversations private?”
Yes. Skype for Business encrypts the pipe between users’ conversations, as well as from each client to the Skype for Business Server.
However, you can potentially have eavesdroppers (though it’s very unlikely). It depends on your deployment type.
- On-Prem: Your Server Administrator can view conversations.
- Hybrid/Cloud: Microsoft CAN technically view conversations, though they’ve stated that they don’t.
One important caveat: Conversations between Skype for Business users and Skype-C users have one extra privacy risk. Even if you control privacy on the Skype for Business side, you don’t control the Skype-C side’s privacy. I documented this back in 2016: The Privacy Risks in Skype for Business-to-Skype Conversations.
“Are Skype for Business conversations recorded?”
Since this one mentioned ‘conversations’ and not ‘calls’ I’ll split up the answer.
VOICE: Only if you leave a voicemail. Otherwise, see above question on recording calls.
TEXT/INSTANT MESSAGING: These conversations are saved in your Conversation History, as well as the Conversation History of all parties involved.
“Recorded” in the sense of the NSA collecting data on you? They apparently like to do that to everyone. Good news is, with proper security for an on-prem deployment, the chances of your conversations showing up in an NSA vault go down to pretty much zero.
“Does Skype for Business track you?”
If you are logged into the Skype4B client on your devices, yes…to a certain degree. Skype4B does track your activity within its infrastructure.
- The client tracks your Presence status from the last active client.
- The client tracks your location, also by last active client.
- There is also the Monitoring Server. This tracks users’ activity, call details, and system health.
- A Monitoring Server is not required; admins can choose not to install it. But most would go ahead & do so, as it provides extremely useful data on communications stability & troubleshooting. We recommend Monitoring for all deployments.
If you’re worried about an Orwellian-esque sensor constantly following your movements…you’re thinking of Apple. Skype for Business doesn’t do that. Like any good communications software, it responds when someone triggers a conversation.
“How does Skype for Business know when you are away?”
Device activity! Skype4B clients monitor the last activity performed on the last device you used while logged in.
They look for mouse movements or keyboard presses on desktops, and taps/swipes on phones. After a certain interval (set by your Server Administrator) without any such activity, Skype for Business assumes you are ‘away from desk’ and changes your status to Away.
Server Administrators can set this ‘Away Interval’ anywhere from 5 minutes to 360 minutes, site-wide. We generally keep it to 5 minutes or 10 minutes for customer deployments.
“Does Teams record your calls/conversations?”
This question came up as well. Since people have just as much right to question Teams’ privacy controls as they do Skype for Business, I included it.
Teams does log your chat conversations. Since Teams is primarily text-based, and since most conversations take place in channels, it makes sense to keep records of those chats. You as the participant may access the logs. Teams Administrators within your O365 tenant can as well. Microsoft doesn’t scan or collect them either.
If you want to record a call or meeting, you have the option. The process is near-identical to Skype for Business recording: Record a Meeting in Teams – Office Support
Skype for Business Does a Good Job on Privacy
All in all, Skype for Business maintains a solid reputation for protecting your privacy. We’ve deployed it for thousands of users now, and received zero tickets on data leaks or breaches. I asked two of our customers if they thought their Skype for Business deployments risked their privacy. Both said no, not at all.
I take that as a vote of confidence. Hopefully you can too.
Thanks for reading! The next “Group Post” will discuss how to change several common Skype for Business elements. Join us back here next time for those.