CLUBHOUSE: THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL NETWORKS OR JUST A BUBBLE?

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Just over a month now, a new social network has been gaining popularity among users all over the world. We’re talking about Clubhouse, the social network based entirely on voice, which is considered by many to be the future of podcasts and professional social networks such as LinkedIn.

In this JOurnal article we will try to highlight not only the features, but also the privacy issues that are causing concern.

CLUBHOUSE: APP BASED ON AN INVITATION SYSTEM

A particular feature of Clubhouse is the invitation race, because it is only available for iOS devices and can only be accessed by invitation. Therefore, it is not enough to own an Apple smartphone to be able to access it, but you have to receive an invitation from a user who already uses it.

Because of these peculiarities, Clubhouse was immediately identified as an elitist social network, and quite a few groups have sprung up where users put their invitations up for sale.

But let’s ask ourselves: why is the app only available to Apple users and only accessible via invitations?

The answers to these questions have been varied, but in reality there are essentially two reasons:

HOW CLUBHOUSE WORKS?

Clubhouse differs from the usual social networks in that it is based exclusively on the use of voice messages: posts on the platform are not conveyed by any type of text, image or video. Everything works in a similar way to a forum or a large chat room, where you access various rooms in which you can discuss a wide range of topics: music, cinema, technology, politics, health, current affairs and much more.

What is different from a simple podcast? Clubhouse is live and the conversation in the room takes place at that moment, it lasts as long as the room is open and it is not possible to download or retrieve the chat that took place later.

The Clubhouse home page is quite clearly divided, with the suggested rooms in the foreground: as soon as you tap on one of these, you are plunged into the conversation and can immediately hear what the registered users are saying.

Once you have chosen the room and the event of interest, Clubhouse opens a window with all the participants in the conversation, you enter live, there is no possibility of recovering what has been said previously and the profile images of those who are speaking are circled in grey (allowing you to understand who is speaking at that moment).

To ask to join and speak you can click on the hand icon at the bottom right (which is equivalent to asking the moderator to speak, as if you were raising your hand). You can leave the room by clicking on “Leave quietly” at the bottom.

CLUBHOUSE AND PRIVACY ISSUES

Not all that glitters is gold and, in fact, a careful analysis of the social network has revealed serious problems related to compliance with European privacy rules and regulations.

Let’s see them in detail:

The disclosure does not consider at all the rights of European citizens (although the app is proposed globally), but there is only a section dedicated to California residents that refers to the possibility of exercising rights under the California Consumer Privacy Act.

There is also no mention of the appointment of a representative on European territory, despite the fact that Clubhouse’s parent company is based in California. This absence is inexplicable if we consider that Clubhouse, through its platform, processes on a large scale and not on an occasional basis personal data of European citizens. For these reasons, we believe that the failure to appoint a European representative, pursuant to Article 27 of the GDPR, is a serious oversight, especially in view of the success that the Clubhouse app is enjoying in Europe.

Moreover, further critical points emerge in relation to the possible sharing of personal data that Clubhouse could carry out with its affiliates without prior communication to the user and, above all, without the latter’s consent. The privacy policy talks about the voluntary sharing of address book data, even if in fact, in order to make the invitation system work, this is a practically obligatory and particularly invasive step.

CONCLUSION

Although interest in the app is growing steadily, it will need to be brought into line with European rules, otherwise the American company may not only incur heavy penalties, but risk being blacklisted. We shall see.

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