Clubhouse: How Safe Is the New Social Media App?

Brett Benningfield
Updated May 20, 2021
1 min read

Clubhouse has made a splash in the social media space. With high-profile users, such as Van Jones, Elon Musk, and Oprah, the app has seen an increase in demand overnight. With more users and media attention, Clubhouse is facing growing scrutiny about its security protocols. 

 

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is a new audio-based social media app that allows users to create chat rooms led by designated speakers. Chat hosts can moderate and allow listeners to become speakers and ask questions to keep the conversation flowing. Think of it as an interactive podcast or TED talk.  

The idea behind Clubhouse is to create safe spaces for people to have all types of conversations, ranging from wellness to economics. In fact, one of the reasons the app has become so popular is that you can’t just download it and create a profile. You’ll need to be invited to become a user, giving the space an air of exclusivity that only increases demand. 

 

Exclusivity vs. safety

Clubhouse promises the exclusivity of a like-minded community. You can only use the app if you have been invited. However, users should try their best to ensure that their privacy isn’t being infringed because the app can’t guarantee security. 

There have been many instances where users have recorded private conversations. As of this moment, Clubhouse has guidelines in place to investigate breaches in privacy, but it fails to provide any preemptive measures. Scrutiny over data spillage increased after users were able to stream popular chat room audios with celebrity speakers. These incidents mean that your audio may be recorded even if you are in a private chat room. 

 

Not so private after all

Another issue many users are uncomfortable with is that they have to give the app access to their contacts to invite people. It will also show users who in their contact list is a user and what chat rooms they frequent. Even if users haven’t given access to their contact list, people who have them as a contact can see them in the app. 

Clubhouse encourages users to connect the application to other social networks, such as Twitter, potentially gaining access to contacts or followers from other social platforms. The company is not transparent in its policy regarding this concern, putting most of the responsibility on the user

 

Issues with moderation

In theory, the idea of Clubhouse would work like a charm. You create a space to converse with people worldwide about a myriad of topics in a respectful manner. Hosts would have the ability to remove any speaker that behaves inappropriately.

However, Clubhouse doesn’t have proper moderation controls to keep its users safe. Users can report inappropriate behavior after it happened, but there are no preemptive measures if hosts open the floor for others to contribute to the conversation. Moderation becomes the responsibility of hosts and speakers solely. It also doesn’t stop users who abuse the application from creating their own chat rooms rife with misinformation. 

 

Who can access my data?

For Clubhouse to investigate any incident that happens in a chat room, they have to record the conversations that have taken place. If a conversation ends without anyone reporting an issue, then Clubhouse deletes all the data. The specific period for Clubhouse to retain the recordings isn’t disclosed. This practice is a potential security concern for users looking for a safe space, primarily since Clubhouse doesn’t provide end-to-end encryption for its data. 

Stanford researchers also found potential security risks with the application. The back-end infrastructure of the application was built and is managed by Agora, a company based in Shanghai. Stanford pointed out that Agora could potentially have access to users’ data and audio, which would mean that the Chinese government could request access to the data. 

Agora has made statements claiming that they don’t have access to user data and that voice data is never routed through China. 

 

Clubhouse has ways to go

There isn’t a completely safe place on the Internet. It’s unrealistic to expect everything to go perfectly for a new social network that gained popularity overnight. However,  Clubhouse has many issues to sort through if it wants to be considered a safe social network. Before jumping on the bandwagon, we suggest letting the social network mature and catch up on its security protocols and safety measures.


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