Should Lync users worry about PRISM snooping on their calls?

Lync Server 2013, Voice over IP

If you’ve followed any tech news lately, you’ve heard about PRISM. It’s the NSA’s surveillance program that collects data on foreign – and American – online activity.

Are Lync users included in this sweeping surveillance? Do we have to worry our communications are being monitored?

They COULD be…but that depends on what version of Lync you use. Read on for my explanation.

What does PRISM Collect: Almost Every Type of Internet Communication

According to this article in WebProNews: Is Silicon Valley Spying on You for the Federal Government? – WebProNews.com
PRISM collects the following.

  • Emails
  • Metadata
  • Conferencing
  • Chat logs
  • Internet phone calls (VoIP)
  • And several more types of online communication.

You use many of these when you use Lync. Especially the chat logs and VoIP calls. That’s part of what makes Lync so useful – all those communication channels in one interface!

Does this mean all our Lync calls are monitored/recorded? Has Lync Server become a net the NSA can trap all our conversations within?
No!

The NSA’s spying is troubling for every privacy-minded person. Microsoft IS one of the major entities cooperating with the NSA, turning over data (they are listed in the above article).

However, it does NOT mean all of our Lync calls are recorded surreptitiously and shipped off to the US government for scrutinizing. Here’s why.

Why Running Lync Server Doesn’t Mean You’re Funneling Data to the NSA

There’s a simple reason why Microsoft’s cooperation does not translate into everyone’s Lync conversations being spied upon.

Lync Server was created by Microsoft…but is not always hosted by Microsoft.

Lync Server 2010/2013 is an independent software platform. It runs in a datacenter. Your own on-site datacenter, or an off-site provider’s like ours.

In both cases, Microsoft is not the governing authority. Only the licensing authority. They have no control over your logs, and no authority to demand them.

Thus you don’t have to turn over any data (unless served with a court order, and that’s usually for help with a crime investigation).

So if you do run Lync Server, breathe easier. And if you’re debating a Lync Server 2013 installation, go ahead with it. Running your own Lync servers affords you privacy from PRISM.

(Note that I can’t say 100% that all conversation data is safe everywhere. I don’t know how far the NSA’s net reaches! I’m just saying we don’t have to fear Microsoft handing our Lync logs over…because they don’t have them anyway.)

The One Time Lync’s Privacy is Questionable

All that being said, there is ONE potential risk I see.

If Microsoft is the provider running Lync Server for you…that’s a different story. No guarantees, but you DO risk your Lync calls being swept up in PRISM’s net.

When does Microsoft run Lync for you?

That’s right. Office 365.

While I like the quick-and-cheap ability to use Lync that Office 365 provides, privacy-conscious users are warned to stay clear of the online service. At least for now, until we have some sort of reassurance.

Otherwise…be careful what you say over Lync 365.

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  • About the Lync Insider Blog

    The Lync Insider is a blog about the technology we use to communicate in business today. Here we talk about Microsoft Lync Server 2013, its predecessor Lync Server 2010, Unified Communications, Voice over IP and related technologies like Exchange Server. Written by Chris W., Tech Writer & SEO Engineer for PlanetMagpie IT Consulting.
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