Skype’s privacy settings are bullshit

Several months ago, I received an “add me” request on Skype from a young mainland Chinese girl. Never one to refuse such an offer, I approved her request, and she immediately began trying to sell me LEDs. In the interests of amusing myself and annoying her, I offered to procure LEDs in return for unrestricted access to all the girls working in her factory, she became grouchy, and there the matter rested.

I removed her from my contact list. I didn’t block her – she wasn’t crazy enough to deserve that – but I took her off the list.

Unexpectedly, she popped up again today, to see if I wanted to buy LEDs. She was able to start a chat without needing to be re-added to my contact list.

This absolutely contradicts Skype’s “privacy settings”. Here are mine:


The observant will notice that I “Allow chats from… only people in my contact list”. LED-Selling-Girl is not in my contact list. Yet she can chat. So: huh?

So I set up some tests. This is not an isolated bug. It works every time. Removing someone from your Skype contact list does not remove the authorisation that you granted when you added them. They can still see your status, and they can still initiate chats and calls, even if your privacy settings explicitly state otherwise.

This sucks for two reasons. Firstly, although you can block users (which does prevent them from calling, chatting and seeing your status), the privacy settings suggest this is not necessary. The privacy settings lie. More seriously, it means there is no way of revoking the authorisation granted when you add someone to your list. You either remove them from your contacts (in which case they can still see you and contact you), or you block them (in which case, their names are on record in your block list). It’s not possible just to return a contact to that “cloud” of Skype users who have never connected with you. If you want to erase all traces of a contact, you either have to perform low-level surgery on Skype’s XML files, or open a new account.

I e-mailed Skype about it. My Skype client is bang up-to-date, so it’s something they ought to deal with.

Be aware. Use the “block” function.