IDG news service reports that Eurojust, a European Union agency responsible for coordinating judicial investigations across different jurisdictions has announced the opening of an investigation involving all 27 countries of the European Union.
At the moment, Skype is not included in phone tapping legislation in the EU and there are fears it is being used by criminals to avoid eavesdropping by the authorities. While operators companies are obliged to comply with court orders to monitor calls on land lines and mobile phones, Skype has so far refused to cooperate with the authorities, Eurojust says.
The IDG report says that the European investigation could also help US law enforcement authorities gain access to internet calls. The US' National Security Agency (NSA) is understood to believe that suspected terrorists use Skype to circumvent detection.
The purpose of Eurojust's coordination role is to overcome 'the technical and judicial obstacles to the interception of Internet telephony systems', Eurojust said. The main judicial obstacles are the differing approaches to data protection in the various EU member states.
The investigation is being headed by Eurojust's Italian representative, Carmen Manfredda. Criminals in Italy are increasingly making phone calls over the Internet in order to avoid getting caught through mobile phone intercepts, according to Direzione Nazionale Antimafia, the anti-Mafia office in Rome.
Police officers in Milan say organised crime, arms and drugs traffickers, and prostitution rings are turning to Skype and other systems of VoIP telephony in order to frustrate investigators.