Clubhouse is tightening security to address China spying fears

The audio chat app won't ping Chinese servers.

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Jon Fingas
February 13, 2021 3:00 PM
Clubhouse app logo
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Clubhouse has been garnering hype through its high-profile discussions and a drop-in approach to audio chat, but there are also concerns the Chinese government might eavesdrop on nationals who got the app before it was banned in the country. The developers are promising to protect those users who got through, however. Alpha Exploration told Stanford's Internet Observatory that it's tightening security measures, including blocks preventing Clubhouse apps from "transmitting pings" to Chinese servers. In theory, Chinese spies will have harder time tracing app activity.

The upgrades also include "additional encryption." Alpha Exploration expected the changes to take effect over a 72-hour period, with a third-party firm auditing the changes.

Users were concerned that Chinese officials could legally obtain any recorded conversations passing through servers in the country. While only a handful of iOS users are believed to use Clubhouse in China, they may be prime targets for spying — the Chinese government has eagerly cracked down on services that could help dissidents coordinate in secret, such as VPNs.

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The new measures might be crucial to Clubhouse's growth. If it's going to grow past its invitation-only focus and launch on other platforms, Alpha Exploration will have to persuade users that it's truly private and secure. Any work now could pay dividends if it gives more people the confidence to join in conversations.

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Clubhouse is tightening security to address China spying fears