Clubhouse collects excessive data, undermines user privacy, says Internet Freedom Foundation

The app collects name, address, contact details, phone numbers, IP address, device name, OS, the people a user interacts with, and time, frequency and duration of use.

June 24, 2021 02:48 pm | Updated 03:18 pm IST

Clubhouse collects excessive data, undermines user privacy.

Clubhouse collects excessive data, undermines user privacy.

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With almost 2.6 million users in India, Clubhouse has emerged as a popular social media platform in the past few months. While over a million users congregate in Clubhouse’s discussion rooms regularly, India’s digital rights advocacy group has raised privacy concern about audio-based social network.

Internet Freedom Foundation has accused Clubhouse of collecting ‘excessive data’ and undermining the right to informational privacy. The platform’s practices are against the principle of data minimisation and informed consent, it added.

In a blog post, the advocacy group said it collects more data than is required to provide services.

The app collects name, address, contact details, phone numbers, IP address, device name, OS, the people a user interacts with, and time, frequency and duration of use. Besides, as people link other platforms to Clubhouse, it access information shared on those platforms. Based on authorisation, it also collects phone numbers in the contact list, even for individuals who are not a part of the platform.

IFF noted that the app shares user data with third-parties and the government and there is no policy that prevents the platform from monetising on it. The group has accused Clubhouse of failing to put a robust privacy policy in place, which has led to widespread hate, security incidents or privacy violations on the platform.

While Clubhouse records every conversation for investigation purposes, and claims to delete the audio immediately, there is lack of clarity around the entire process.

IFF has urged Clubhouse to provide a human rights policy and volunteer for a civil rights audit to ensure that the platform is respectful of digital rights and enable users to understand how the platform accounts for human rights in its governance of the platform.

It suggested a periodic audit to examine Clubhouse’s efforts to respect and defend human rights on its platform, evaluate how Clubhouse complies with its community guidelines and privacy policy, and provide its recommendations.

“We believe that civil rights audits of social media entities are extremely important. In this day and age, these entities hold immense power in regulating speech and it is important that there is an independent evaluation of how such regulation takes place,” IFF said.

“A comprehensive human rights audit is the only way to mitigate the dual threat of hate & disinformation on the one hand and state/corporate surveillance on the other.”

The advocacy group has also filed a RTI with the home ministry, asking whether law enforcement agencies such as Intelligence and Narcotics Bureaus have been granted the permission to monitor Clubhouse conversations.

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