The Houseparty app has faced a huge surge in popularity in the midst of the global coronavirus outbreak, and now some people have claimed there are privacy and hacking concerns related to the app. After a number of people alleged their data had been hacked, Houseparty has came out denying the reports and is putting up a million dollars to find out where the rumours began.
Houseparty could be described as the go-to app of the coronavirus pandemic. The video chat app has quickly risen up the app charts as people stuck in isolation look for new ways to connect with friends, family and strangers.
But it’s not all sunshine and smiles. A number of unsubstantiated tweets went viral on Twitter ” some have since been deleted ” allege the app has some serious data security issues. These users claimed their PayPal, Spotify and Netflix accounts were hacked and blamed Houseparty for the data breach.
EVERYONE DELETE HOUSE PARTY. I’ve had my Uber account hack and two friends have had their house party accounts hacked. Make sure you disconnect your Snapchat, delete your house party account and then delete the app.— Char???? (@Charlottee_00) March 30, 2020
been hacked three times off the houseparty app into my spotify???????? would recommend deleting asap x pic.twitter.com/F9f4yGuH3m— mary (@marymccaffertyy) March 30, 2020
While the tweets didn’t provide any proof of a Houseparty breach, it was enough to gain traction on the internet with a number of media outlets reporting on the alleged data security issues.
Houseparty has since denied the data breaches ever happened and said it’s all part of a sabotage plot to take down the app at the peak of its popularity. The problem is, they haven’t provided any evidence to suggest the sabotage campaign is real either. Instead, they’re offering $US1,000,000 to anyone who can provide them with the proof.
We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumors were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty. We are offering a $1,000,000 bounty for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign to firstname.lastname@example.org.— Houseparty (@houseparty) March 31, 2020
While Houseparty hasn’t said why it believes the rumours are part of a smear campaign, it could have something to do with the undercurrent of sinophobia ” the discrimination of China and Chinese people ” some modern apps are experiencing. The app is owned by Epic Games Store, which major Chinese game publisher Tencent has a sizeable stake in. Because of this, Epic Games has been the subject of internet scrutiny, including repeated accusations the store is allegedly stealing data and providing it to the Chinese government, as reported by Polygon.
Tim Sweeney, Epic Games’ founder, has denied the accusations stating while Tencent is the largest investor, no investor “can dictate decisions to Epic. None have access to Epic customer data”.
TikTok, another popular app with ties to China, has also faced accusations of data mining for the Chinese government. It’s subject to an investigation by the U.S. government to see if claims of its dependence from China’s government hold truth.
It too is a claim TikTok has long denied.
“TikTok does not operate in China, nor do we have any intention of doing so in the future,” TikTok said when denying the allegations back in October 2019.
Whether Houseparty has been breached or not, it’s always a good idea to be vigilant about security when using apps. You should be updating your password regularly, using a unique password for each app you try out and when two-factor authentication is available, use it.
Gizmodo Australia has contacted Houseparty for further clarification on the alleged smear campaign as well as a data expert to discuss the app’s data security.
Back in 2019 Epic Games (of Fortnite fame) acquired an app called Houseparty. It stayed relatively quiet until 2020 when coronavirus saw millions of people stuck at home, looking for new ways to connect with friends and family beyond Zoom and Skype calls.Read more