by Vartika Johri
There is a new app which has gathered a huge market share within a short span of 1 year, currently there are around 3.6 million users globally engaging with Clubhouse on daily basis, this is an audio-only social media network which allows users to interact in public as well as private rooms and discuss about various topics, there is no restriction as to any subject matter. With capturing the global market clubhouse also captured criticism regarding violation of privacy and using abundant information of participants as well as non-participants of the application. There lies a question mark on the sustainability of this rapid growing application.
“Clubhouse is voice-only, and we think voice is a very special medium. With no camera on, you don’t have to worry about eye contact, what you’re wearing, or where you are.” A brand-new social networking app by the US company Alpha Explorations Co. available for IOS devices for over a year of its launch and now the application is available on Android from May 2021, is in its most basic sense clubhouse is just another social networking application with a slight twist, this is an audio-only social network where members gather in a virtual room and listen to one another speak. Clubhouse is being used for business pitches, talking about sports games, poetry recitals and prayer sessions and various other things. The invite-only app gained popularity in Thailand over past few weeks as a string of influential people started using this platform, this is seen as a venue for members to express their views freely, including on highly-sensitive issues. Participation is allowed for both speaker and a listener. As of now new users are required to be invited by other users, popularity of these invitations started to rise in autumn 2020 when US celebrities started to head towards this application. With its increasing popularity in EU clubhouse has come under criticism from a data protection perspective.
ISSUES REGARDING THE SECURITY AND SUSTAINABILITY.
The option to invite friends’ users must share their address book with clubhouse in this way the company collects personal data from contacts who previously consented to the processing of their data and who do not use the application. The users may also be responsible for the data processing associated with sharing of address books and this issue from the data protection perspective is advisable not to grant the clubhouse application access to thus data unless the consent of the respective data subjects has been obtained and ideally documented, further this data is transferred to US servers without the consent of the data subjects in the said address books. It is suspected that clubhouse creates shadow profiles in its own networks there are profiles for people who appear in the address books of clubhouse users but are not themselves registered with the clubhouse. Since users are urged to give access to phone contacts even people with no interest to join clubhouse the service will have the access to their name, mobile number and friends they have on the network. This has attracted attention of privacy advocates and it could be a problem for the service in some jurisdiction, if taken a look of jurisdiction of Germany the highest court in the country ruled in 2016 that Facebook’s similar practice of using uploaded contacts to attract new members to the service contravene German consumer law. Over the weekend, cybersecurity experts noticed that audio and metadata were being pulled from Clubhouse to another site. A user set up a way to remotely share his login with the rest of the world, Although Clubhouse declined to explain what steps it took to prevent a similar breach, solutions may include preventing the use of third-party applications to access chatroom audio without actually entering a room or simply limiting the number of rooms a user can enter simultaneously
Privacy advocate and co-founder of SynData AB, Alexander Hanff agreed that the service is encouraging users to break European data law, he said, “It is a breach of GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] and does not fall under the Household Activity exception (yes, we have case law in the EU for invite-a-friend referral marketing which states you must have the consent of your friend to share their personal data with a third-party commercial entity),” The popularity of the app has prompted Buddhupongse Punnakanta digital economy and society minister to warn users to be careful about breaking the law saying authorities will investigate illegal content. Since it is a challenging task for officials to inspect or detect anything happening on the app the government may want to consider removing any illegal content on the platform, the app is designed to have no data installed on as claimed by Baker & McKenzie law firm’s partner and technology head Dhiraphol Suwanprateep. The another issue that is experienced with the app’s popularity as the platform allows users to talk freely on any topic it would be inevitable for any sensitive issue to be brought up in Clubhouse especially as the app does not allow users to post or record their sessions, the company explained how this is necessary for to give a sense of privacy and safety, but this does not mean they avoided digital footprint because when it comes to sensitive issues that may cause damage to others, users have to be careful about what they say because freedom of speech wont protect them from the law and the application won’t be able to hide them even if they are using private application.
In a nutshell there are some serious legal concerns for the application users
- Clubhouse has no personal data protection policy, the application has user pictures, audios, emails and other details in the system
- User’s risk facing defamation lawsuits if they defame others and someone records a conversation with other devices which could be used as evidence for legal action
- Violation of copyright laws, as for instance singers who sing a song without copyright permission on the platform could run afoul of the law
- The clubhouse rooms rife with sensitive issues, as who knows the private rooms are used for fulfilling what purposes
INDIA AND THE CLUBHOUSE.
Indian digital advocacy group, the Internet Freedom Foundation [IFF] has raised privacy concerns about popular American audio-only social network, in a blog post it was expressed by the IFF that the application should provide a Human Rights Policy and volunteer for Civil Rights Audit, the advocacy group also accused the platform of “excessive data collection” and also “wide array of information”. Moreover, based on the specific authorization clubhouse also collects phones numbers in your contact list even if they are not on the platform this undermines the right to informational privacy of those persons whose phone numbers get exposed to clubhouse without their knowledge and even consent. IFF has filed an RTI with the Home Ministry to investigate allegations that government agencies like the Narcotics and Intelligence Bureau have been granted permission to monitor conversations on clubhouse.
With increasing criticism, the clubhouse replied in regards to their terms and conditions as they are specific with the working of the application. Clubhouse also temporarily records conversation and retains them for investigation purposes, the company explained the reasons why and how it might record voice communication in its community guidelines which is Solely for the purpose of supporting incident investigations, we temporarily record the audio in a room while the room is live but IFF noted that this clause is not clarified their community guidelines. It is arguably a good thing that clubhouse is recording audios but since they have not clarified this clause directly violated the users right to privacy.
Within just a span of 1 and a half year the application Clubhouse has attracted both users and well has suspicions, the company has answered few doubts of their users but still a lot is left unsaid and people are still waiting to get at least some information about the working of this new application. Its hard to say what the future holds for clubhouse but now in 2021 its one of the hottest social apps on the market. New features like original shows and creator tipping aim to keep driving the app forward over the coming months are considered important formula in this competitive market. Even in India this viral audio-only platform has gained users and the growth has been enough for the clubhouse to extend its creator First monetisation program to India, which is also the first country outside US to have access to this program.
It is suggested for the company to inculcate more descriptive and user-friendly terms and conditions keeping in view the right to privacy factors of individuals and invest to make it a safe platform for users to participate and communicate. Keeping in view the negative image that is been created from couple of months its hard to say what is in the box for the company whether this app sticks around for a long haul or not, but one thing is certain that within a short span clubhouse has already succeeded in having a massive impact on the way people think about social media.
- Picture credit: Android Police
5 thoughts on “CLUBHOUSE APP: PRIVACY & NON-LEGAL CONCERNS”
Nice Research and
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Nice Article , contains a good amount of information regarding clubhouse app and its effects on indian society….
Nicely written,in simple words that everyone can understand i would encourage this author to write more and more articles on issues like this ….
All the best for the future ..🙂
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Thank you so much ma’am for explaining this so simply, this article is really helpful to me.
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Clubhouse is making headlines in the country, it is a great way to inform users about the pros and cons.
Nice work 👍
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great going 🥳🥳
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