If you decide to join Clubhouse, avoid sharing your contact list
Will Oremus, one Medium’s OneZero, about how the hot new app Clubhouse is pushing users to get their phone’s contact list and how the unclear use of that data can be problematic:
Once you’ve agreed to upload your phone’s address book, Clubhouse uses it to recommend people to follow who are already on the app, which is common practice for social apps these days. But it soon becomes apparent that Clubhouse also takes it a few steps further, in ways that are both creative and a little creepy.
This article is a must-read, especially if you’re wondering whether or not you should join Clubhouse. Using phone numbers to build a social graph is not only weird for an app such as Clubhouse — focused on personal interests like Twitter, not relationships like Facebook — but coupled with the “mandatory” use of real names, it can truly become problematic for many people.
Clubhouse may or may not be the worst offender in terms of how it handles contacts that users upload. It’s conceivable that the company has thoughtful data-handling practices that mitigate the risks, although its nonresponse to my inquiry isn’t the most encouraging sign.
A social media company has to do better in 2021 and we, experienced users, should not be OK with all this. I’ve made the mistake of giving Clubhouse access to my contact list, and now it’s too late. If you decide to join Clubhouse, I think you should wait before allowing anything. It doesn’t seem like a big deal when you join the app, but then you think of all the implications and realise that Oremus is right: it is a little creepy.
The FAQ/support page on Clubhouse’s website is incomplete, sometimes can’t even be accessed, and there is still not a simple, secure way to delete your account or data. How is this not a priority for them? Clubhouse should not get a pass on this, this is not the year 2011.
The sudden hype to join the hot new social network is strong: you want to experience it yourself, you want that sweet username saved, you want to show your network that you’re already on it, that you’re one of the cool kids. This hype should not blind you to the risks now too well-known regarding privacy and what happens to your data. I am now seriously considering emailing Clubhouse to ask for my account and data to be fully deleted, not out of spite or the decidedly poor interest I have for the app, but as a matter of principle.
UPDATE: 12 hours later I’ve now asked for my Clubhouse account and data to be deleted.