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For instance, if Microsoft wanted to learn about technical or trade secrets of competitors communicating through Skype (say, a couple of start-up founders), now they're free to do it.

Is that any different from using, say, Gmail or Google Apps? Not saying that Google is looking at that data but this is a problem with essentially every web-based communication tool. People shouldn't have an expectation of privacy or security just because it's a company they know/like or it's a popular tool.

It's a risky situation, if you ask me. Consider the data that tools collect on us:

- location and contact history (cell phones)

- message history and address book (email, social network)

- interests/activities (calendars, event tools, feed subscriptions)

- browsing history

As an engineer, think about the evil fun you could have with that data. You could really mess somebody up if you didn't like them.

While technology makes this easier, it isn't new. You could hire a PI to follow the CEO of a competitor. You could break in and bug their offices.

None of this is legal, and if discovered there would be a legal case to answer.

I've long thought that Google's ability to track searches from Microsoft IP addresses was one of the reasons for the development of Bing - i.e. Bing's value is, in part, that it plugs an information leak and siphons other leaks into Microsoft's data mine.

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