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US Congress To Use Skype For Video Teleconference 96

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the skype-your-congressman dept.
dkd903 writes "The US House of Representatives Committee on Administration has announced that Skype will be made available to the Members of Congress and their staff to improve efficiency and cut down on time spent traveling."
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US Congress To Use Skype For Video Teleconference

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  • I can only assume they mean "made available" on computers supplied to them. No reason they couldn't already be using this on their own computers. Although, I do wonder what kind of restrictions the IT staff has at the Capitol building.
    • It was previously unavailable on the Federal Internet. It's a need-to-know basis kind of thing.

      • by icebike (68054)

        The congressional internet is not the federal internet.

        The real deal here is that now Skype is owned by a company that can install all the backdoors that the Feds have wanted over the years.

        • by gedw99 (1597337)

          exactly.

          skype was properly protected from prying government eyes. MS will open the flood gates, and in return get more uptake from the government sectors.
          Corporates with anything to hid will run back to blackberries

          g

          • by iluvcapra (782887)

            skype was properly protected from prying government eyes.

            [Citation--- you know the rest.]

            Surely there's some Open Source tool they could use? Of course SIP and strong encryption are easy to put together, the real benefit of Skype is the phonebook service mapping names to their Internet locations. All other OSS video solutions I'm aware of require knowing an IP addy/domain name/URL for your destination.

    • FTA:

      Members and staff can now use popular video teleconferencing services within the House network to communicate with constituents.

      Skype says that their engineers have worked with the Congressional network security team to ensure the security of the communication channel.

      I would assume they have a very strict IT policy, with every single network app needing pre-approval. At least, that's what I'd require, and lock incoming and outgoing ports down to the bare minimum with the heaviest security and packet filtering and require only encrypted channels. I think the concern here was verifying encryption... and they had to wait for Weiner to resign since I'm sure they have a "no weiners on Skype" policy.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The following policy announcement is still in effect (since early 2006) at a federal work site I am closely aligned with. It's not one of the traditional three letter agencies hyper concerned with security. Acronyms have been replaced for non-bureaucrat readability.

        [Federal Agency] Policy on The Use of Skype Internet Telephony Software on [Federal Agency] Computers and Networks

        Internet telephony, also known as Voice over IP (VoIP), has greatly increased in popularity and use over the past few years. One p

  • Seems odd (Score:3, Insightful)

    by countertrolling (1585477) * on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @09:09AM (#36596804) Journal

    But I guess now that Microsoft owns it, doesn't sound too surprising

  • by Anonymous Coward
    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      Hey, companies have a right to find out if the bri^H^H^H money paid to lobbyists is working or not!
    • Exactly.
      But hey, if you look at Microsoft's LIS draft [conceivablytech.com], you'll see that there is nothing to worry about, and/or nothing a Congress member will worry about, or understand.
      (And just to quote TFA from yesterday: "A request for clarification we sent to Microsoft has remained unanswered so far.")
  • Just curious... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @09:09AM (#36596812)
    I wonder how many people are going to find a reason to complain about this? And i wonder how many of those people would have complained if the announcement had been made before Skype was purchased by Microsoft?

    I ask this because i admit that my initial response was "oh look, the government is buying into the Microsoft monoculture once again" before i stopped myself and realized that wasn't very fair.
    • Re:Just curious... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Idbar (1034346) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @09:19AM (#36596942)
      Well, my first thought would be that the use of Skype to reduce costs will translate into calls made from laptops on airplanes. Congressman will not stop traveling or cut their spending, they will just use it to the arsenal of tools that can be used to consume the tax payer money.
      • My first thought on yours is: "Who would want to spend all their time on a plane using Skype?" Then I saw your sig, and got puzzled.

        • by Shompol (1690084)

          Great countries were not made of people complaining.

          Just look at the countries where people complaining had been promptly executed. Those were the greatest countries! For the executioners, at least.

      • "Great countries were not made of people complaining."

        See: The Declaration of Independence for a list of complaints that resulted in the American Revolution.

        Are you Michelle Bachmann, by any chance?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Case in point, the US is not a great country. It's a country where it's obsession with taxes is leading to deteriorating infrastructure and no collective will to pay for fixing any of it. Civilizations that don't maintain their infrastructure generally collapse. The US had it's brief moments in the sun, but realistically it was an ascendant superpower from say 1900 to 2005. It's already in decline.

      • Same here. I'm always reminded of an old IBM commercial(?) which featured this businessman in his office where some tech was installing a new video conferencing system and explaining how great it was and how it was going to save the company lots of money because they wouldn't have to pay for this guy to travel all over the place. Meanwhile, he's looking at the pictures on his wall of all of his trips around the world and obviously thinking, "This sucks."

        Trust me: There will still be "fact-finding" trips

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Wellll my problem isnt that ms owns skype now, but rather that they just introduced the patent to evesdrop on skype calls. I prefer my elective representatives use stronger security but hey what do i know?

      • by Daetrin (576516)
        Well i'm not suggesting that the decision should be accepted blindly either, just that we should be judging it on the technical merits, not based on the very recent (especially considering the pace at which the US government works) acquisition by Microsoft.
      • Wellll my problem isnt that ms owns skype now, but rather that they just introduced the patent to evesdrop on skype calls. I prefer my elective representatives use stronger security but hey what do i know?

        Yes, what do you know? The patent was filed 2 years ago. That article was just someone with too much time connecting tangentially related dots and drawing wild conclusions.

      • Wellll my problem isnt that ms owns skype now, but rather that they just introduced the patent to evesdrop on skype calls. I prefer my elective representatives use stronger security but hey what do i know?

        Isn't that the opposite of transparency?

        • by iluvcapra (782887)

          Transparent to whom? The people or blackmailers?

          • Who are the blackmailers? Do you mean another gov't agency, or do you mean the mob or something...?

            • by iluvcapra (782887)

              Whoever intercepts the phone calls, and decides which calls to put on wikileaks and which to hide.

              If you want to make their phone calls readable, you have to have a mechanism where they're ALL published in the open, and not merely readable by whoever can hack an Autonomous System carrying their call.

              • Whoever intercepts the phone calls, and decides which calls to put on wikileaks and which to hide.

                Wouldn't that discourage a bunch of bad behaviour?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Complain? I just find it funny that yesterday there's a story about Microsoft patenting eavesdropping tech and today an announcement that US Congress will use Skype to communicate.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      my initial response was "oh look, the government is buying into the Microsoft monoculture once again" before i stopped myself and realized that wasn't very fair.

      It's more fair than you think. Even before the MS purchase, Skype was a monoculture just as bad: a nonstandard voip protocol with one single implementation, not interoperable with anything else, with a userbase almost entirely sustained by network effects. People "need" Skype because they want to talk to other people to use Skype (who in turn inst

    • I wonder how many people are going to find a reason to complain about this?

      I had a different take: "They're just now figuring out Skype is useful? I've been using it for years, and yet they have the temerity to tell me how to run my business?"

    • I'm not complaining, because they're not my government. If they were, I wouldn't be posting on Slashdot, I'd be complaining directly to them. My complaint would have nothing to do with Microsoft (I keep forgetting they own Skype now), I'd be complaining that they were buying a proprietary communications tool, using a protocol that has not been peer-reviewed for security, without a second source, and giving a commercial entity the benefit of government-backed network effects, distorting the market consider
  • Great! Now when they get nothing accomplished they can blame it on the dropped call!
  • with Microsoft's recording/monitoring policy will make some interesting scenarios.

  • by jra (5600) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @09:15AM (#36596892)

    Because allowing the Skype PtP client on to office computers makes them insecure, and probably uncontrollably violates the Congress firewalls in the process.

    Morons.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      I doubt they're using the stock version. The federal government does have the budget and gravitas to demand special things and Skype must be falling over backwards to accommodate them just for the PR alone. Until we have more details, its a little presumptuous to think that they have the stock version.

      • by tokul (682258)

        its a little presumptuous to think that they have the stock version.

        Skype without firewall punching. that would be something new. Who cares if you have stock or non-stock version, if software you are using is network security nightmare.

        • by gad_zuki! (70830)

          Most likely they aren't doing p2p like typical skype, but have a dedicated super-peer. I'd be very surprised if they were.

    • by pherthyl (445706)

      >> Because allowing the Skype PtP client on to office computers makes them insecure, and probably uncontrollably violates the Congress firewalls in the process.

      Can you provide a link that discusses this in detail? I'd like to know what about Skype is inherently insecure.

      • >> Because allowing the Skype PtP client on to office computers makes them insecure, and probably uncontrollably violates the Congress firewalls in the process.

        Can you provide a link that discusses this in detail? I'd like to know what about Skype is inherently insecure.

        Assuming he meant insecure in the workplace, not insecure in general, then the link is here: http://www.bluecoat.com/doc/644/ [bluecoat.com]

  • Didn't MS just file for a patent that would allow them to eavesdrop on Skype [slashdot.org]? Hmmm, this is not a good combo!!!

    • by Subratik (1747672)

      Didn't MS just file for a patent that would allow them to eavesdrop on Skype [slashdot.org]? Hmmm, this is not a good combo!!!

      My thoughts exactly... this reminds me of people putting wifi connections in cars that have access to the firmware that deals with the engine!!

    • I disagree, it is a good combo, now we might know what goes on the those back room meetings.
  • by fwarren (579763) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @09:58AM (#36597480) Homepage

    Congress is drinking the Microsoft Kool-Aid.

  • by Lumpy (12016)

    They have Tandberg and Polycom Video conference devices ALL OVER THE PLACE at congress. Are these morons simply too uneducated to use them?

    • by TheSync (5291)

      The problem is that no one pays $1000 a plate for dinner with 500 people over Skype.

  • Think of Congressman Weiner's possibilities for hooking up using live video! The new avenues to pose in his underwear would have been expanded!

    Any guess on what his Skype ID would have been? I'm thinking "IAMACONGRESSPERV"

    • "Any guess on what his Skype ID would have been? I'm thinking "IAMACONGRESSPERV""

      Actually, that's the ID of "Diaper" David Vitter [wikipedia.org] (R. Louisiana), Senator and Lawbreaker (Soliciting a Prostitute) in both his home state and Washington, D.C.

      Larry Craig's [wikipedia.org] ID is "TOILETAPDANCER" and Mark Foley's [wikipedia.org] is "NAKEDBOYPAGEFAN".

      Hope this helps!

      Have A Nice Day!

      kthnxbai!

  • Now we know why Microsoft paid that price for Skype. They have a new cash cow gov't contract. The purchase by MS (or similar big corp capable of supporting large gov't contracts) may have even closed the Skype deal for Congress. Surely, Congress is most comfortable with the known entity vs. the unknown. (...and don't call me Shirley.)

  • in light of Microsoft may add evesdropping to Skype [slashdot.org] this is a really stupid idea - but then in light of some of the other "ideas" that come out of government in general and this one in particular we should be happy they're not actually going to conference in big business purposely.
  • technology saved taxpayers dollars. Hmmmm wonder if this was part of the take-over plan by Microsoft. They knew they were going to get a government contract....
  • Presumably this is only so that congressmen can talk to non-congressmen. They would surely use their own internal system to talk to each other. In general, I would have thought that most non-congressmen would jump at the chance to travel to meet a congressman. So who's travel is being saved here ?
  • Well, actually I bet they were funded by the government.
  • Now that Microsoft is thinking about patenting the ability to let law enforcement folks tap VoIP conversations when wrongdoing is suspected, our beloved congress persons will have to do their dirty deals without using Skype. What Will We Do?
  • So that Microsoft can listen to the plans?
  • As long they are fair about it: http://eccentricintelligenceagency.info/archives/2326 [eccentrici...gency.info] then we can listen to them too.

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