In the modern era of high-tech communication we live in today, privacy is necessary. Gone are the days when only nerds and important people had things like pagers; remember those? If you were really nerdy like me and some of my friends, you did not just have a pager, you had an alpha-numeric pager…
Anyhow, getting back to the point, we all use tools like messengers, cell phones, etc.. It gets harder all the time to protect yourself and your family from predators of all sorts. Some want to chat, some to sell you something, others can have intents that are more nefarious. All modern communication comes with any number of protective measures you can use.
Today, I want to discuss Skype.
Most of one half of my family uses Skype to keep in touch with each other. Some of us have been members for quite some time, others have only recently gotten on the program. Everyone has at one time or another gotten a message from someone they don’t know, or might simply prefer not to.
The reaction unfortunately is to either not use the software, or run in an invisible mode which, while useful, makes it so nobody knows if you are on or not. If I could tell you how to use Skype, not appear offline, and only get messages from people you knew, would you be interested?
Let’s start with the status; or “Presence” as Skype likes to call them; options which many users mistake as Privacy Settings. When Skype is running you should see an icon by your clock for the software. Which icon you see depends upon which status setting you’ve selected.
There are the important status settings you can select:
- Online. This is the automatic status setting when you are online and available.
- SkypeMe!™. Means you are happy to be contacted by people who are not in your contacts list.
- Away. You’re signed in, but you’ve been away or haven’t used your computer for a while so probably won’t answer a call or instant message.
- Not available. You’re signed in, but not used your computer for a long time, so aren’t available.
- Do not disturb. You’re busy and don’t want to be contacted right now. In this setting the notifications of calls or instant messages will not be displayed.
- Invisible. When you don’t want users to know that you are really online, choose this one and you appear offline. You can still call and send and receive instant messages.
- Offline. You’re not signed in, and can’t call or send or receive instant messages.
Myself, I run in Online mode. These are the same icons which show up in your Contact List next to mine, and anyone else’s name, showing you what their status is. As you can see these settings are useful, but limited. Especially if, as in our stated scenario you want your contacts to reach you, but not some creep in Romania (or down the street) looking for cyber-sex or your credit card…
If you open the Skype program by right clicking on the icon in the taskbar; you could also double-click that icon, or click the icon on your desktop you get the main program interface.
We can do many things here. Today though we just want to control whom, and how, we can be contacted. Looking at the program we see a menu across the top of the window, click on Tools then Options.
Clicking Options opens the main settings window. . Now click the button in the left labeled Privacy. You should only see the few options in the basic settings, look for the button saying Advanced Options. Click it. Let’s go through these settings one at a time.
- Allow calls from…
- Anyone: this means that anyone can call you with the Skype software if they know your user name.
- Only people in my contact list: this is the locked-down setting. A user Must be in your contact list to be able to contact you.
- Allow SkypeIn calls from…
- Anyone: anybody can call your SkypeIn number.
- There is an option under Anyone to block hidden numbers. Therefore, if you use SkypeIn and do not want to talk to people with their caller-ID blocked like many telemarketers, checking this option turns their phone call down.
- Only numbers in my contact list: again, this is the locked-down setting that means somebody has to know you, and be in your list to call you.
- Anyone: anybody can call your SkypeIn number.
- Automatically receive video from…
- Anyone: this means that anyone can initiate a video chat or call with the Skype software if they know your user name.
- Only people in my contact list: this is the locked-down setting. A user must be in your contact list to be able to video chat with you.
- No one: absolutely nobody can connect to you via a video chat or call.
- Show that I have video to…
- People in my contact list: this is the locked-down setting. A user must be in your contact list to even know you have the capability for video calls.
- No one: absolutely nobody can see whether you can conduct video chats or calls.
- Allow chats from…
- Anyone: this means that anyone can send you a text or chat message you with the Skype software if they know your user name.
- Only people in my contact list: this is the locked-down setting. A user must be in your contact list to be able to contact you.
- Keep chat history for…
- When you are in a chat or text conversation with another user Skype, like most messenger systems keeps a history of who said what, and when. This can be useful for many reasons, but can conceivably become quite large if you are an active chatter. You can define how long this history is kept with this setting.
- Allow my status to be shown on the web:
- This one confuses, even scares, some people. It does NOT mean there is some database that shows whether you are online or not. What it does refer to is IF you have a web site, and IF you’ve gotten special code to put on that site, THEN your status can be seen; look at the left column of this site for an example.
- Accept Skype Browser Cookies:
- These Cookies are pieces of data that Skype may store to help various (web) applications to recognize you or your preferences. These cookies allow Skype to learn about the use of its websites, and to allow tailored content for an individual user. Third parties for Skype might analyze this information additionally cookies may contain identifying information.
Please be aware that depending on versions and updates, you may see different options, but the general principals should for the most part hold true regardless.
Because I use Skype as a major means of communicating, as well as for business, I run wide-open settings; Figure 5.
If on the other hand you are like some of the people I wrote this for, you might want some very tight settings; like this . With your settings put this way Nobody but your direct contacts can reach you.
With the privacy settings in the options you can control how the world sees you, and how they can, or cannot, interact with you. Then you use the status, or “Presence”, settings to further tweak things.
NOTE: If your status setting is at SkypeMe! It does not matter how tight your privacy settings are. This is a special setting overriding everything and tells the world you want to chat — Now! Be careful to avoid this if you do not want unsolicited contacts.(This article is provided AS IS and makes NO guarantees to your actual security or privacy.)
As always, feel free to leave me a comment, or send me an email with your computer questions, and if you found this article please use the Rating feature at the top of the page. Your votes, comments, and questions help me know what kind of articles you would like to see.