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Microsoft’s newly released spyware dubbed “Skype for Business” has been condemned by privacy advocates and users, who say it’s an invasion of personal privacy.
The spyware, which has been widely reported in the news, is designed to gather information from Skype and other apps, including email and chat, to create a virtual database of every phone call and message.
The app is free, but the data collection process is paid for by the company, and can be used to track users’ movements and contacts, according to a Microsoft blog post.
It’s designed to give Microsoft a better picture of what people are up to on their phones.
“The ability to track people around the world and monitor their online behavior is a vital component of our global cyber mission,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.
“This new tool will be a critical part of our cybersecurity strategy, providing us with valuable insights into the privacy of our users, as well as enabling us to improve our own cybersecurity posture and provide the security necessary to protect our customers.”
While the app itself is free to download, Microsoft is offering a $50 credit for every customer who downloads it.
The company says it uses this data to “help us better understand what people like and dislike about our products.”
While it’s not clear how much information is being collected, the app allows users to create profiles and track their friends and family.
The profiles are shared with Microsoft, who can use them to customize ads and send them to the users’ devices, according the company.
Microsoft has said that the spy software will be removed from the Windows Store in the coming weeks.
The Washington Post’s Ben Fritzl reported that the app uses a technique known as “spyware injection” to collect personal information from the phone of the user who installed it.
It works by sending a specially crafted “key exchange” message, in which the user gives their PIN number to the app.
The message can then be used by the app to create an encrypted copy of the phone, which can then later be used for “spying,” according to the report.
A Skype spokesperson said in a statement to the Washington Post that Skype for Business was not a product of Skype.
“Skypes app is not associated with Skype, nor is Skype’s app a product or part of Skype’s apps portfolio,” the spokesperson wrote.
“We have been working closely with Microsoft and have released an update to Skype for business that addresses the issues described by the Washington post.”
The spokesperson said that “Skybleaks data and data used by Skype for businesses is used only to provide the Skype for customers with more privacy.”
The Washington post wrote that the new spy software, which is currently available on the Windows Marketplace for $30, was created by a researcher at Microsoft.
Microsoft’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Guardian’s Jason Kottke also called out Microsoft for its spying software.
“It’s a shame that Microsoft and Skype are using their customers’ data to collect so much information about us.
I would expect to be able to buy a phone and use it for free without paying anything for it, but that’s not the case,” Kottk said.
“I don’t know how Microsoft justifies collecting all this data about me without telling me,” he added.
Microsoft also said in the Washington article that it would soon remove the spy app from the Microsoft Store and that it will not be making any further updates to Skype’s software in the future.
The new app, according a Microsoft FAQ, allows users “to quickly and easily share contacts, messages, and contacts with others on Skype.”