“Video chat” applications have become the tools of choice to overcome loneliness during the confinement period imposed against the Covid-19. Companies proposing to break this distance are a hit. The American videoconferencing group Zoom, for example, has soared more than 100% since the start of the year on the stock market with a capitalization of $ 38 billion in capitalization. He is not the only one. Since March 17, the date when the French were invited to stay at home, the American Houseparty application has found a place of choice in French smartphones.
In a few days, the application went completely viral, going from 58th place of the most downloaded applications on iOS on March 17 – on the first day of confinement in France – to 1st place on the 21st of the same month. During this same period on Android – from March 18 to 22 – it went from 82nd to 4th according to data collected on App Annie.
Videoconferencing for recreational purposes
“Everyone uses it and it avoids the many WhatsApp groups,” says a confined thirty-something Parisian. “No matter the age, we all meet there and it allows us to spend time together with a real activity,” analyzes another Parisian follower of the game of Pictionary offered by the application. It must be said that Houseparty differs from other video conferencing applications by its more festive nature.
Created in 2016 by two entrepreneurs, Sima Sistani and Ben Rubin, the latter already known for having created the live video application Meerkat, Houseparty has taken a new dimension since its acquisition by the video game company Epic Games, owner of the game successful Fortnite.
The successful app is more “kitsch” and intended for a younger target than “Zoom”. With its video conference contacts, it is therefore possible to play integrated games. Above all, it offers screen sharing services that allow friends to go to dating apps or watch TV programs like Netflix together. Usually popular with adolescents, the audience for Houseparty has grown in a period when bars, clubs and other places for social exchange are now closed.
Largesses with personal data?
This dazzling success of Houseparty inevitably aroused the curiosity of specialists, as for the personal data management policy of the application. According to the “Financial Times”, Houseparty presents itself as a “socially responsible alternative to large groups like Facebook, vowing never to monetize user data and advertising”.
According to Forbes magazine which interviewed a cybersecurity and confidentiality researcher, there would be “nothing to worry about”: “I analyzed the use of the permissions of the application and since it offers video conversations with your friends, it makes sense that the requested permissions are required. I did not find any suspicious misuse […] The app doesn’t provide a lot of built-in options and settings, which creates fewer scenarios for exploiting security concerns. ” On BFMTV, Suzanne Vergnolle doctoral student in law at the University of Paris-II-Panthéon-Assas warns, however: the service is “free to use the content of all past communications via its services, including any idea, invention, concept or techniques […] this implies that personal conversations, or about a start-up idea, are to be avoided ”.
To remedy these problems, a few simple actions are possible: change the privacy settings in the application or activate the private mode. Finally, Houseparty users can send an email to [email protected] to refuse the use of their personal data.