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[News] Clubhouse: intriguing app with privacy issues

One of the hottest new social scenes is Clubhouse, a virtual party that you can join from the safety of your own home.

Clubhouse is about conversations. The app enables live and unrecorded audio discussions with people all around the world. By following people you’re interested in, as well as topics you want to discuss, these choices will open up discussion rooms. You can drop in to any room and listen to casual, real-time conversations with like-minded folks. And you never know — you might get called up to the stage to join in the chat.

Because Clubhouse is currently in beta (and available only on iPhones for the time being), you need to be invited by a friend already on Clubhouse (they give each person a handful of invitations they can share). Even with these restrictions, with 2.3 million downloads in January, it’s growing fast. 

And the reason for its popularity is simple. Clubhouse allows for free-flowing, ephemeral chats. You’ll encounter a wide range of voices, and that alone may make it worthwhile. The BIPOC, Latino, LGBTQ, and disabled communities are well-represented, as are people who identify as women, trans, and gender-fluid. And there are conversations about a range of topics including music, health, books and writing, science and technology, politics, faith, small business, sports, history, and identity.

But be careful! Before you jump into the party, we at Namecheap believe it’s important to mention a few privacy concerns, as well as issues with the app’s minimal moderation that some suggest may not go far enough to prevent bullying or harassment. 

Having said that, there are a few steps you can take to protect your privacy on Clubhouse.

  1. When you install the app, it asks for your real name and phone number. If you’re worried about privacy, you can use a Google Voice phone number and a pseudonym where you enter your name. Fortune points out that while Clubhouse users are expected to give their real names, “the app doesn’t appear to verify that information during registration.” 
  2. Upon activation, Clubhouse requests access to your phone contacts. We recommend you deny this request. To turn off this access after the fact, go to Settings > Privacy > Contacts on your iPhone, then switch Clubhouse to ‘off.’

With the above privacy caveats, Clubhouse still has a lot to offer. Like all new social media platforms, the excitement lies with the possibilities. It seems like a great space to connect with creative, interesting, and smart people, as long as you take proper precautions.

For a first-person perspective, check out the Stop Writing Alone podcast where host Nicole Rivera talks about her experiences with Clubhouse.

In other news

  • Where did my tabs go? On February 4, Google Chrome disabled the popular extension The Great Suspender as malware — and with it, all suspended tabs in browsers all over the world. When anonymous new owners took over the extension, they appear to have added code that called remote scripts and added “remote tracking analytics, sending user information somewhere w/o user knowledge,” according to the Register. Meanwhile, The Verge lists some Reddit users who suggest a workaround of sorts. It’s not a way to fully restore tabs, but it’s something.
  • Jeff Bezos is stepping down. On Tuesday, the Amazon CEO announced that  Andy Jassy, currently the chief executive of Amazon’s cloud computing division, will become CEO in July. According to an email sent out to Amazon staff, Bezos intends to focus his “energies and attention on new products and early initiatives.” But he’s not going far. As The New York Times puts it, “He’s not exactly fading into the mist: He will remain Amazon’s executive chairman and will no doubt remain a major force at the company.” Furthermore, the NYT points out that Bezos has “an eye on all the things you become interested in when you’re one of the world’s richest people — such as space travel.” Which then begs the question: how long until Amazon delivers to the moon?
  • New WordPress version on the horizon. In WordPress version 5.7, coming in early March, we can expect 68 new features and enhancements, as well as updates to Gutenberg and bug fixes. As reported in WP Tavern, one of the most exciting new features is the ability for WordPress to detect whether or not a website can be upgraded to HTTPS, and where possible, will allow for a one-click update. WP Tavern notes that “the streamlined HTTP to HTTPS migration in 5.7 does not handle updating content in the database” however, and if there are any reasons the update cannot be performed, it will be noted in the Site Health message.
  • Music to your ears? Spotify has been granted a patent that may allow the app to use sounds, including your voice and background sounds (your cat, maybe, or your children?) to determine what kind of music you might like to listen to. It might even go as far as trying to guess your age, gender, and other personal details based on the sound of your voice. Whether that’s creepy and invasive or cool cutting-edge tech may depend on how many cats you have.
  • New online magazine. Are you tired of the same old content and looking for something to tickle your reading tastebuds? Pipe Wrench Magazine is an up-and-coming publication from former Longreads writers and editors, with the first issue coming this April. Each edition will feature a long-form article along with a number of shorter companion pieces that react to and interpret the ideas within the core piece. The project is entirely bootstrapped and looking for ground-level subscribers interested in forwarding their mission. (And given that the name harkens back to 80’s band A-ha, what’s not to love?)
  • Be on the lookout – for Chucky? On January 29th, 2021, the Texas Department of Public Safety mistakenly sent out an Amber Alert about a suspected kidnapping. The suspect? Chucky, the evil doll from the movie Child’s Play. Not one, but three, text messages went out to the state’s residents. According to The Guardian, the suspect was “a 28-year-old with red, auburn hair, blue eyes who stood at 3ft 1in tall and weighed 16lbs” and was “wearing blue denim overalls with a multi-colored striped long sleeve shirt and carrying a large knife.” No word on whether or not this suspect was successfully apprehended. 

Tip of the week

Did you know that if you already have a WordPress website hosted elsewhere, Namecheap will help you move your site over to EasyWP, our Managed WordPress platform, for free? That’s right. EasyWP takes all the hassle out of upgrading your hosting platform so that you can focus on your day job. 

Do you like our new weekly tech news articles? We’ll be publishing these updates every Friday. Please let us know what you think in the comments!

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Jackie Dana avatar

Jackie Dana

Jackie has been writing since childhood. As the Namecheap blog’s content manager and regular contributor, she loves bringing helpful information about technology and business to our customers. In her free time, she enjoys drinking copious amounts of black tea, writing novels, and wrangling a gang of four-legged miscreants. More articles written by Jackie.

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