Become the reference application to organize virtual meetings between friends, Houseparty is very greedy in personal data.
It has become a reflex for many French people. The Houseparty application, launched in 2016, allows you to chat by video chat, between groups of up to eight people. Hence one of its uses most popular so far: make virtual aperitifs with friends, and toast by screens interposed during confinement.
To operate, the application to more than 20 million users requires some standard connection information, including a nickname and a phone number, and requires access to a contact book to find friends and relatives. Houseparty will thus come to draw from the directory of its users, or even from their contacts Facebook and Snapchat, to connect them. With one particularity: friends of friends will be able to join video conversations or mini-games launched via the service.
General tour on personal data
“In a fairly standard way, the application requests access to the directory of its users, and collects all of their contacts. The service will therefore be able to make a precise analysis of a person’s social interactions, and therefore to know who has the number of who, and who is in contact with whom. This can obviously be a problem if these interactions leak later, “explains Suzanne Vergnolle, doctoral student in law at Paris-II-Pantheon-Assas University and specialist in the protection of personal data and privacy.
The data collection carried out by Houseparty is far from being limited to the contact book alone. “The app will retrieve the user’s IP address, the IMEI number of his device, his operator … and more broadly, the name, location, genre but also the photos of his users. information that can later be cross-checked, “adds Suzanne Vergnolle.
One of the most unprecedented provisions of the very popular application relates to the use of personal exchanges carried out on the network. The service will be “free to use the content of all communications made via its services, including any idea, invention, concept or technique”, regardless of their concrete objective, including the fact of “developing, designing or selling goods and services “.
“The application collects the content of all conversations. On the one hand, this means that communications are not encrypted and that the House Party can have access to them,” said Suzanne Vergnolle. “On the other hand, it implies that personal conversations, or about a start-up idea, are to be avoided”. Houseparty will thus come very little to lend itself to confidential exchanges, and even less professional.
Finally, certain data will automatically be considered “non-personal” by the network, without Houseparty really going into details. The application will, for example, follow the activity of its users outside of its service, to remember the third-party sites consulted. In these cases in particular, refusing to collect your data will have no effect.
Must we give up on Houseparty? The application can keep a strictly recreational use, as long as you take care of the content of your personal conversations. To protect the content of its communications, encrypted applications such as WhatsApp or FaceTime will be preferred. Exchanges containing professional information must be strictly limited to dedicated tools.