Rising audio-chat app Clubhouse announced that it’s reviewing its data protection practices following the report by Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO) which found that the app may be leaking data to Chinese government.
On February 12th, researchers at the Stanford Internet Observatory released an article and announced that they confirmed the China-based Agora supplied back-end infrastructure to Clubhouse and they may be transferring user data to the Chinese government.
Before the app was banned by the Chinese government on February 8th, Clubhouse had gained great popularity in mainland China and there were users discussing sensitive issues restricted by the Chinese government such as Xinjiang detention camps and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the report said.
While Agora said that it doesn’t store users’ data ‘except to monitor network quality and bill its clients’, the SIO suggested that the Chinese government still can get access to the Agora’s network which may put Clubhouse users in Mainland China at risk.
As a response to the SIO’s research, Clubhouse said that some users in China found a workaround to download Clubhouse and ‘’the conversations they were a part of could be transmitted via Chinese servers.’’
‘’With the help of researchers at the Stanford Internet Observatory, we have identified a few areas where we can further strengthen our data protection.’’ said the company in a statement published by the SIO. “Over the next 72 hours, we are rolling out changes to add additional encryption and blocks to prevent Clubhouse clients from ever transmitting pings to Chinese servers. We also plan to engage an external data security firm to review and validate these changes.”
Launched in April 2020, audio-chat app Clubhouse has become quite popular recently following Elon Musk’s chat with Robinhood CEO on the platform where they discussed why Robinhood stopped trading ‘meme stocks’. The app went viral in such a short amount of time that last week two Facebook spokesperson said Facebook is building a Clubhouse-rival audio chat app.
According to Sensor Tower, the app surpassed 3.6 million app downloads during the first week of February and the developer announced that it has now over 2 million weekly active users.