Have You Updated Your Privacy Settings on Skype?

Person on skype with lock

It was not that long ago that the idea of making video phone calls seemed like a futuristic dream reserved for Star Trek or the Jetsons. Yet in 2011, the Oxford English Dictionary recognized “Skype” as a verb meaning to have a conversation over the internet with someone, typically including viewing by webcam. It’s easy now to take this amazing technology for granted. However taking just a few minutes to update your privacy settings on Skype can help safeguard your information online.

Privacy Concerns with Skype

Microsoft recently updated its service agreement with language that has privacy experts concerned. The update which went into effect on May 1st, applies to Skype as well as Xbox Live gamers. Microsoft inserted language that prohibits users from “publicly display[ing] or share[ing] inappropriate content or material.” Microsoft also added rules giving the company the right to review your content in the process of investigating any complaint.

skype logoFor Skype users, this seems to clearly indicate that Microsoft stores your calls and can watch them later if they choose to investigate how you are using their service. This concerns many users who feel their calls are no longer private and are subject to review and scrutiny of calls they may prefer to keep to themselves.

While there are a few other options for making calls over the internet, those companies often present privacy concerns as well. You may also be concerned about the information you have on Skype being publicly available to others. A quick review of your Skype privacy settings can help ensure you only share the information you want to share.

Finding the Skype Privacy Settings

There are many different platforms Skype is available on. This can make it difficult to locate the settings you need on your exact device. Finding the privacy settings on Skype on your tablet or phone will be different from each other and different from where the settings are located on a desktop computer. These will also vary depending on whether you use Windows or Mac.

In general look in the menu bar for settings. From there you may see a menu option labeled “Privacy…”, or you may need to click on “Preferences” and select the “Privacy “tab from there. In some applications, the privacy settings are simply in your settings and are not under a privacy heading in any way. If you run into difficulties and simply cannot find the setting you are looking for, you can go to Skype Help for more information.

Changing your Skype Privacy Settings

Below you can find information about the privacy settings in Skype that you can alter. By walking through the different options you can choose where you would like to heighten your privacy.

Change Who Can Call You

Skype offers the option of either allowing calls from anyone, or only permitting calls from people already in your contact list. By default, this option is set to allow calls from anyone. By restricting who can call you, you can prevent unwanted or annoying callers from attempting to reach you through Skype. Simply click on the slider to turn the option off and secure your privacy.

Manage Instant Messaging

In the same way that Skype defaults to allowing anyone to call you through Skype, the app allows anyone to send you an instant message by default. Under “Notification Settings” you can turn off instant messages and SMS if you prefer not to receive these messages in Skype.

If you prefer to receive instant messages but would prefer to restrict that ability to just your contacts, you can also change that here. Check the box next to “Contacts Only” to prevent those you don’t know from sending you instant messages.

Restrict Your Public Listing

To connect with you on Skype, others can search for you in the search bar. They can do this either by your username, your email address, or your phone number. Skype allows you to restrict what information is publicly available to others who are searching for you in Skype.

To view and change your settings, click on “Manage how people find me on Skype.” From here you can toggle off the option to appear in any search results in suggestions. This is the most private setting.

If you prefer, you can add your email address or mobile number to allow people to search for you by whichever you are most comfortable with. Whichever you choose, the information will be publicly available to anyone doing a search on Skype.

Manage Your Contact Information

Skype offers the ability to automatically find friends that are already in your contact list. This way they can add their contact information to your Skype list. To do this, Skype scans your address book for phone numbers and email addresses of your friends. Skype then searches for those automatically and adds any it finds to your Skype list. If your contacts have restricted their public listing, they may not appear in your Skype list, even if they have a Skype account.

On the other hand, if you aren’t comfortable providing the contents of your address book to Skype, you can keep this option turned off. This will mean that to add your friends to your Skype list, you will have to search for them manually. This will obviously take up more time. However, many people prefer to go this route rather than give their address book to Skype.

Microsoft Targeted Ads

For the most part, Skype provides its service for free to users making calls and video calls in most countries. But we all know, nothing in life is truly free. To monetize Skype, Microsoft sells advertising to businesses. Since they have profiles on all of their users they can target adds with great precision. This profile can include such personal details as your age and gender.

By default, Skype checks the box allowing Microsoft to provide targeted ads to you. If you prefer not to receive targeted ads, uncheck the box next to “Allow Microsoft Targeted Ads.”

Update Your Profile

Skype offers you a profile page with blank spaces to include your personal information. The more you add to your profile, the more likely friends or family are to find you when looking to connect with you through Skype. However, you might prefere to stay more private online. You can take out most of the information requested to build your profile.

For example, you do not have to include your actual last name in your profile. City and state are also not a required field. You may choose to withhold your birthdate and gender as well. Skype does not require you to disclose your phone number in your profile information.

Again, you may be fine with including these in your profile and may find it useful at times. The choice to disclose that information is yours. However, you should only fill in as much information as you are comfortable with.

Start snooping around your privacy settings and you will find out just how much information companies have of you. That goes for WhatsApp, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Google, as well as Skype and all those other services and social media platforms. Luckily, you can optimize the settings in a way that you can stay relatively private online.

Tech journalist
Tove has been working for VPNoverview since 2017 as a journalist covering cybersecurity and privacy developments. She has broad experience developing rigorous VPN testing procedures and protocols for our VPN review section and has tested dozens of VPNs over the years.