It didn’t take long: just a few months after the rise of the chat app Clubhouse, there are the first concerns about Chinese intelligence and hacks.
Clubhouse, the latest hype app among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, is under scrutiny. The company behind Clubhouse had to close a site that broadcasted the conversations directly in the app. You did not have to log in and bypass the exclusivity of the app.
The initiative, somewhat like a live-streaming cable TV website, did not last long. But it does raise questions about the security of the app.
Is it so problematic that extra people can listen to the panel discussions that you can set up with the app? Not quite. But what does seem problematic is the tech behind Clubhouse.
The latest new app is run on a Chinese platform: Agora. Critics are therefore afraid that the Chinese government is listening in and smoothly ignoring the limit of 5,000 listeners per conversation. Clubhouse has now been banned in China.
Do not use for sensitive conversations
Contributions from critics are therefore not tender. According to ex-Facebook privacy boss Alex Stamos, Clubhouse is therefore not one hundred percent safe. “I wouldn’t use it for sensitive conversations,” he says.
And then there are the more basic privacy concerns that almost every new app trips over. To invite friends and family to the app, new users must open their address book. This means that even people who do not want to or cannot use the app have their data on Clubhouse.
So sometimes bizarre situations arise. For example, the San Francisco FBI office already has 87 friends on Clubhouse, that is, 87 members have that office’s number in their smartphones. You will also find many drug dealers and therapists.
Bye bye Clubhouse? Maybe not. Like Zoom, the company will be diligently looking for a patch to fix things, that is, if it wants to experience equally exponential growth.