It has been reported on several news sites that Microsoft filed a patent back in December 2009, that involves the use of VoIP technology to silently record calls sent over a network. Given that Microsoft recently bought the popular Skype service, there is a real chance Microsoft could or indeed has, implemented the technology in order to do so.
The patent, which was registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, describes "recording agents" which are able to legally intercept calls sent over a VoIP network. According to ConceivablyTech, the patent is one of the corporation's more elaborate and detailed filings. It does not mention however, the use of such technology within the client itself but rather would be included in other devices that network traffic may pass through, such as routers.
Given that Skype was bought much later than when the patent was published, there is no reason to believe it was designed with Skype specifically in mind. What it does highlight however, is that the company may be using it elsewhere and that it has the potential to be applied to the Skype network.
Call monitoring is nothing new; it's been used for years on traditional telephone networks, but this is one of the first examples that such technology has been designed to work over the internet. Microsoft justifies its patent with this fact because traditional methods of call monitoring do not work with VoIP technology. Given many governments desires to keep a close eye on their citizens, there will no doubt be more news stories in the future as to how communication is discreetly observed online.
Image Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Thanks to M2Ys4U for the news tip.