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PSA: Clubhouse is recording your conversations and has access to a ton of your data

This privacy policy contains some interesting details, especially considering Clubhouse is yet to be monetized.

clubhouse app on iphone
Image: Unsplash

By now most of you have heard of Clubhouse, the new, audio-only social media hangout platform. With help from the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg, the platform has seen a quite meteoric rise in popularity over the last couple of months.

Elon Musk even said in a tweet that he will soon do a talk with Kanye West, though neither has confirmed a date.

While Clubhouse has certainly risen in popularity over the last couple of months, the platform is still very new and early in development.

At this time, Clubhouse is still invite-only, meaning that in order to join, you must receive an invite from a user that is already on the platform. While it is confirmed that the platform will eventually available to the public, no date has been announced.

Clubhouse’s privacy policy certainly brings up some concerns about data collection

For those who don’t know, Clubhouse is a platform where people can host chatrooms on specific topics, allowing users to jump in and out. In some cases, anyone can speak in a given “room,” and in others it seems similar to a podcast with one or two people having a conversation on various topics, while others listen along. This certainly explains why celebrities like the ones mentioned above are a big draw for users to the platform.

Though it is still very new and very exclusive, Clubhouse certainly has some questionable policies regarding user privacy and data collection. I’ll highlight just a few of those policies here.

Clubhouse is recording audio, of course

clubhouse app on iphone
Image: KnowTechie

One of the features that Clubhouse is leaning on is the idea that everything is live. Once a room has ended, it can never be listened to again, meaning anyone not there for the live chat will not be able to listen to what was said.

While this is an appealing feature to many, the platform is, of course, recording the audio. In the privacy policy, the company states that it only records audio from a room in case there is a security concern. Once it has been confirmed that there are no issues, the audio is deleted. However, if there was a report of a security concern, the audio is saved to be studied later to determine if there was an issue or not.

Though the policy does state that the audio will be deleted after the issue is resolved, it remains vague about how exactly that process is handled. This may come as no surprise. Of course the audio-based social media platform is recording our audio.

You can’t get rid of data already shared on the app

clubhouse invite users screen
Image: KnowTechie

The exclusivity of Clubhouse right now is actually beneficial in the company’s data collection efforts. As explained above, to join the platform, you must have an invite from someone who already has an account. In order for that person to invite others to the platform, they must give access to the contacts list on their iPhone. This means that anyone who has Clubhouse and your phone number may have already shared your information with the platform.

What may be worse than that is that there is currently no way to delete any data already shared on the app. This means that even if you have no interest in Clubhouse, it may have some of your personal information anyways, either through phone contacts or other social media platforms.

So what happens if you do have an account? Well, currently there is no way to delete an account through the app itself. The only way for a user to delete an existing account is to send an email to the company’s support and wait for a response. Even when your account is deleted, Clubhouse retains the rights to any previously shared information on the app.

Clubhouse is tracking your internet usage

Something that has come to be expected when using the internet is tracking. Most social media sites use tracking software to see help gauge user interests, in an effort to serve more targeted advertisements to their users. Clubhouse seems to be no different here.

“We and our third party service providers may use cookies, pixels, or other tracking technologies to collect information about your browsing activities over time and across different websites following your use of the Site and use that information to send targeted advertisements.”

While this is certainly not unusual, it is interesting that this policy exists, considering Clubhouse has yet to monetize the platform. Tracking technologies are widely used to serve up targeted advertisements. This begs the question of why Clubhouse is collecting this data without any goal to use it to make money.

They can, and most likely will, share your information without telling you

mark zuckerberg standing in front of privacy text
Image: KnowTechie

What all of this data collection nonsense really boils down to is money. While its privacy policy currently states that Clubhouse does not sell your personal information, it certainly seems that this could be the next step in the company’s business model.

Wording later on in the policy states specifically that the company “may share the categories of Personal Data described above without further notice to you.” While this doesn’t explicitly say “we will be selling your data in the future,” it is certainly some vague wording that leaves some room for interpretation. Clubhouse may not personally sell your data to someone else, but what’s stopping the company’s affiliates from capitalizing on this data?

This lack of transparency is exactly what makes companies look less appealing to users. Most people will understand that these platforms exist in order to make money, but they just want to know exactly what their data will be used for. This type of vague wording will continue to leave a bad taste in users’ mouths.

Data collection is all about the money. It seems pretty clear that Clubhouse is looking to capitalize on the app’s surge in popularity, and data collection is a good place to start. That can certainly rub some users the wrong way, though, so it seems that transparency may be the best policy for the people at Clubhouse. You can read the full Clubhouse privacy policy here.

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Staff writer at KnowTechie. Alex has two years of experience covering all things technology, from video games to electric cars. He's a gamer at heart, with a passion for first-person shooters and expansive RPGs. Shoot him an email at alex@knowtechie.com

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