Govt Prying on Clubhouse Rooms, Violating App’s Terms of Services

Clubhouse will now be subjected to electronic surveillance.

Tech and Auto
3 min read
Hindi Female

Indian government agencies have reportedly started spying on live voice chat rooms of the invite-only app Clubhouse.

Sources told The Hindu that India's top central agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, National Investigation Agency, Enforcement Directorate, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, Narcotics Control Bureau and Central Board of Direct Taxes, have been tracking the Clubhouse rooms.

Clubhouse is an invite-only social networking platform that allows users to exchange audio clips instead of images, videos or messages. The application has been developed by Rohan Seth and Paul Davison.

The app was launched on the Google Play Store in India on 21 May and has managed to cross more than one million downloads after making its long awaited debut.


Violation of Clubhouse's Terms of Services

With central agencies furtively trying to extract information from chat rooms, Clubhouse app, is now subjected to electronic surveillance.

However, this is a direct violation of Clubhouse's terms and conditions. Here's what the app's T&C states:

  • Nobody can "record any portion of a conversation without the expressed consent of all of the speakers involved". However, these agencies have been reportedly recording conversations without the consent of all the speakers.
  • Do not "impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person." It is worth noting that central top agencies won't reveal their real identities while tracking conversations on Clubhouse, an official source told The Quint. "They will either have to impersonate any person or misrepresent their affiliation with a person", said the source.
  • Attempting to access or otherwise obtain any information through any means is also a dire violation of the app's Terms of Services.

What Does The IT Act Say?

While these security and Intelligence agencies have been empowered to act under sub-section (1) Section 69 of the Information Technology Act 2000 read with rule of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information Rules, 2009), it should be noted that Clubhouse has not yet complied with the IT rules.

Meanwhile, the company last week said that it is still" trying to figure out how the rules apply to them and will work towards compliance."

Clubhouse has stated that it would share personal information to law enforcement, government authorities and private parties as it believed necessary to “protect our, your, or others rights, privacy, safety or property (including by making and defending legal claims), enforce the terms and conditions that govern the app and protect, investigating and deter against fraudulent, harmful, unauthorised, unethical or illegal activity.”

But, nowhere the app’s privacy policy explicitly states that live rooms can be monitored by such agencies.

Clubhouse's Take

Paul Davison in a interaction on Clubhouse room with The Quint and selected media outlets said the company keeps a temporary encrypted buffer recording of the audio of the room, which is solely used for purposes of investigation. However, this recording is deleted if someone does not report the room.

Davison said the company has adopted a three-tiered approach for trust and safety, which looks at people, policy and product.

“We’ve made sure that this is a real identity service. You require a phone number for authorisation, which is harder to fake. This is also a voice network which is harder to fake,” Davison said.

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Topics:  Clubhouse App   Clubhouse 

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