Access to the phone book: consumer advocates warn of clubhouse

Access to the phone book
Consumer advocates warn against clubhouse

The new Clubhouse app is currently still characterized by a touch of exclusivity. But that should change soon: While the provider wants to end the exclusion of Android users as soon as possible, consumer advocates are making serious allegations.

The Internet talk app Clubhouse is growing rapidly and, according to experts, is on the way to becoming a mass product. "We are concentrating on opening up Clubhouse to the whole world," company founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth recently announced. Consumer advocates are concerned about this – they accuse Clubhouse of violating data protection rules.

With the help of fresh capital from more than 180 investors, the clubhouse founders want to increase the value of the company to almost one billion US dollars (820 million euros). In the medium term, users will probably also be asked to pay, in which way exactly is still open. The first test version of the app was only launched at the beginning of last year, and the number of users has increased massively since then. As recently as last May, their number was only given around 1500, now there are almost two million with a rapidly increasing trend.

A touch of exclusivity

The app, which was discussed in Germany by derogatory remarks by Thuringia's Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow about Chancellor Angela Merkel and mobile phone games by the left-wing politician during important corona consultations, is currently number one among the downloads at Apple in the social networks category. Clubhouse is not yet available on Android devices.

The business principle is based on a mixture of openness for casual conversations with friends or interesting people around the world on the one hand and a touch of exclusivity on the other. This is achieved through an invitation principle: At Clubhouse, only those who are invited by an existing user can have a say – who in turn may initially only send a maximum of two invitations to others.

Anyone who has managed to get access can go to virtual rooms and speak to other people there via audio signal. A video signal is not provided. Thousands of such rooms are available for this. According to the company, the exclusion of Android users – the vast majority in Germany – is due to technical reasons and, as they say, should be ended as soon as possible.

Access to all saved contacts

Annabel Oelmann from the consumer advice center in Bremen points to completely different problems. When registering the app, users should allow access to all stored contacts. "There is a risk that shadow profiles will be created and used for advertising purposes," warns Oelmann. According to the General Data Protection Regulation, however, this is not permitted, as those affected are not informed in advance about the use of their personal data. In addition, according to the consumer advice center, Clubhouse can record all conversations if, for example, a rule violation is reported during the live conversation.

"Who then gets access to the content of the conversation and who will decide when to delete the conversation, remains in the dark," Oelmann criticizes. Clubhouse also collects usage data to create a communication profile. Critics continue to accuse the company of which data is collected and processed exactly for which purposes. The Bremen consumer advice center comes to the conclusion: Consumers should be aware that they pay for the use of Clubhouse by disclosing their personal data as well as that of their family, friends and acquaintances.

. (tagsToTranslate) Economy (t) Social Media (t) Consumer Association Federal Association