With Clubhouse featuring evermore in global news we have started getting more questions from our clients about the app, I spent some time getting to grips with it and have summarised what it might offer for those undertaking OSINT investigations here.
If you’re not familiar with the app yet that’s no real surprise – it’s only available on iOS and it’s still invite only, so it’s being held back from going totally mainstream at the moment. Clubhouse is a social network based around audio; the idea being you can browse conversations of interest and speak up if you’ve got something to say.
Firstly, its worth noting that Clubhouse can be used in your investigations from a legal point of view. The content is public – so as long as you have a valid reason for investigating, you can use the information you come across.
The limiting factor for OSINT really is the very nature of how the app works, being based around live audio conversations. Whilst most social networking accounts allow users to post to a feed, which is then publicly visible, Clubhouse doesn’t have that sort of functionality – so if you’re investigating a person its unlikely that you’ll locate a treasure trove of information on them. Most users are highly likely to be passive users of the app – taking in content rather than posting new content or ‘getting involved’ in the discussions.
This doesn’t mean that Clubhouse doesn’t offer any value for OSINT research – far from it. I believe that all user profiles are public, so any information added by the user will be visible. This includes all the users they are following and being followed by, the groups they have joined, profile pictures and the bio they’ve added. Critically though, users are encouraged to add their Twitter and Instagram accounts when they sign up, and these are also visible on the public profile. So it may be that one of the most valuable pieces of OSINT on the Clubhouse profile are these connected social media accounts.
There is also a by-product here, because it’s possible to search for a Clubhouse profile by email / mobile through adding a contact to your iPhone contacts, and searching for contacts within the app. This was until recently a feature in Instagram which made it possible to search for Instagram users by email or mobile within the app.
With the ability to search for your contacts pulled from Instagram, the biggest benefit of Clubhouse for OSINT researchers may be the ability to jump to Twitter and Instagram accounts having searched for your contacts within Clubhouse. However, until the app is more widely used the returns on trying to find Twitter or Instagram accounts via this method will be small.
It would be misleading within this article not to mention the fact that the vast majority of Clubhouse users are still currently based in the US. There are estimated to be around 210,000 UK users at the time of writing, with Germany having the highest proportion of users in Europe at 250,000. So regardless of the OSINT benefits in investigating Clubhouse; unless the subject of your investigation lives in the US you are relatively unlikely to get a result on your searches at the present time.
That said, given the nature of the app if you’re investigating a social media influencer you would be crazy not to include Clubhouse in your research.
If you’d like a copy of our larger report into Clubhouse and it’s uses for OSINT you can download a copy below.