The European Union is to investigate ways in which law enforcement agencies can tap into voice over IP services such as Skype, after fears that criminals are taking advantage of the secure encrypted networks.
The Eurojust agency is coordinating the effort, following publicity that Italian enforcement bodies have complained that drug smugglers, among other criminals, are protecting their communications using Skype.
At the request of the Direzione Nazionale Antimafia organisation in Rome, the Italian Desk at Eurojust will play a key role in the coordination and cooperation of the investigations on the use of VoIP.
Eurojust will be available to assist all European law enforcement and prosecution authorities in the EU member states. The purpose of Eurojust's coordination role, it said, is to overcome "the technical and judicial obstacles to the interception of internet telephony systems, taking into account the various data protection rules and civil rights".
It said, "Skype's encryption system is a secret which the company refuses to share with the authorities."
Carmen Manfredda, acting Eurojust national member for Italy, said, "Our aim is not to stop users from taking advantage of internet telephony, but to prevent criminals from using Skype and other systems to plan and organise their unlawful actions. Eurojust will make all possible efforts to coordinate and assist in the cooperation between member States."
The US and Chinese authorities are also making efforts to crack the Skype encryption system.