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French Data Privacy Watchdog CNIL Opens Inquiry on Clubhouse App

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The French data privacy watchdog recently announced that it had opened up an investigation into the Clubhouse app following a complaint. It is a popular US-based audio chat app and has become quite famous among users in recent times. Till January, about five million people use this app. 

The probe aimed to examine if the European Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) applies to the app’s parent Alpha Exploration. Co. The French regulator CNIL in one of their statements said they would take disciplinary measures if found that Clubhouse was breaching the legislation. 

The regulator further added that it’s confirmed that the Clubhouse owner is not placed in the European Union. It means that the EU DPA, who receives any complaints or concerns about the users’ data, can investigate the app. In France, the prominent political figures, including the transport minister, have come directly with the public to address the issue.

Moreover, a petition is also circulating in favor of the French data privacy watchdog action with more than 10,000 signatures. The appeal is alerting CNIL on the potential Clubhouse breaches on privacy laws. 

It is not for the first time that Clubhouse comes under criticism. During the previous month, the Hamburg privacy regulator has similar concerns over the app. The German regulator said they’d ask the app for detailed information about how it secures the European users’ data.

All the member state countries of the European Union are serious about the GDPR. In May 2018, the GDPR was enforced. These regulations intend to secure any organization. No matter if it is outside the EU, offering products and services and processing the EU citizens’ sensitive data. The organizations must follow the data protection principles like users’ consent and data portability.

The audio chat app launched in April 2020 for iPhone users. It offers digital rooms to the users to join the organizers and start conversing with several other people. During the worldwide lockdown because of the pandemic, the service became widely popular as most people’s social interaction was the only means to kill their time while stuck at home. 

However, the Clubhouse has faced significant critique over faulty protecting user data and permitting the third party to access the app and track the users. Besides this, there are other privacy concerns as well attached to the Clubhouse app. It is deemed that the app uploads users’ contacts by using harvested phone numbers to create a usage graph. The graph shows the number of friends a non-user has on this service until they are asked to invite their friends to the service. 

Clubhouse’s owner has clearly mentioned in their privacy policy that the company does not sell personal user data to any third party. However, it might share the data with third parties for advertising and marketing services. 


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