Indian digital rights advocacy group, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), has raised privacy concerns about popular American audio-only social network Clubhouse. In a blog post, the IFF said that Clubhouse “should provide a Human Rights Policy and volunteer for a Civil Rights Audit”.
In a blog post, the advocacy group also accused the platform of “excessive data collection” and collecting a “wide array of information. This includes your name, email address, contact details, phone number, IP address, device name, operating system, the people you interact with and the time, frequency and duration of your use”. “Based on the specific authorisation, Clubhouse also collects phone numbers in your contact list even if those individuals 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, let alone consent,” the post said.
Further, it called Clubhouse’s data sharing practices “nebulous” and noted that the service, like most others, shared data with vendors and service providers, business transferees and law enforcement agencies. It said that the “scope of consent and clarity on what data is being shared” is lacking in this regard. The advocacy group has also 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.
Clubhouse also temporarily records conversations and retains them for investigation purposes, something that is required for the platform to moderate content for trust and safety issues. IFF noted that its Community Guidelines do not clarify “the constitution” of investigating them and what the standard operating procedure for investigations are. It is also unclear how Clubhouse will investigate a chat session after it has ended, since the platform claims to not retain data after a chat room has been closed.
The viral audio-only platform has been gaining users in India over the past year. The user growth has been enough for Clubhouse to extend its Creator First monetisation programme to India. The country is one of the first, outside of the US, to have access to this programme. Under it, Clubhouse offers production, monetary and other support for creators to produce content for the platform.
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