Houseparty
Epic Games | Free with in-app purchases

Houseparty

Review Date 04/23/2020

Houseparty seems to be where all the cool kids have flocked recently, with it becoming one of the most downloaded video call apps since the pandemic started. Owned by Epic Games, maker of the popular video game Fortnite, this isn't a work-from-home video call app. Houseparty is designed for hanging out with friends, playing games built into the app, and integrating with Snapchat. The app lets you have up to eight people in a video call room at once and users can have as many rooms open as they like. And just like at a regular houseparty, you can float from room to room easily. You can even "sneak" into Houseparty without your contacts knowing. The Houseparty app works on Android, iOS, Mac, and in Google Chrome (what, no Firefox support?!).

Minimum Security Standards

Five basic steps every company should take to protect consumer privacy. Learn more.

Overall Security Rating
4/5 star
Encryption
Yes
Houeparty uses encryption. It does not use end-to-end encryption.
Security updates
Yes
Houseparty pushes regular updates to its mobile apps.
Strong password
No
Password requirement is a minimum of 5 characters and the weak password of '12345' was accepted.
Manages vulnerabilities
Yes
Houseparty does have a bug bounty program.
Privacy policy
Yes
https://houseparty.com/privacy/

What is required to sign up?

Registration to Houseparty requires giving them your name, email address, birth date. Houseparty asks for your phone number but no longer requires it. Be warned, Houseparty makes it very difficult to see the option to skip giving them your phone. Make sure you look closely for the "skip" button to avoid giving them your phone number.

How does it handle privacy?

How does it share data?
Houseparty uses tracking tools and collects your data in a number of ways including through social media and third-party apps. It shares your data with third-parties, and uses your data to target you for marketing purposes. You can't limit much data collection, and they note that blocking cookies may stop the Chrome extension from working properly.
How are your recordings handled?
Houseparty doesn't allow for video chat recordings
Alerts when calls are being recorded?
N/A
Video calls can't be recorded within Houseparty
Does the platform say it is compliant with US medical privacy laws?
No
Houseparty is not HIPAA compliant
Links to privacy information

Can I control it?

Host controls
Hosts can lock the party and anyone "in the room" can unlock it. Everyone can video or mic mute and unmute themselves. Everyone can screenshare.
Is it easy to learn and use the features?
No
Houseparty does have a FAQ page on its website to help with some basic questions but our researcher found it to be rather simplistic. Houseparty also leans into a lot of gesture-based navigation that may be more familiar to younger users familiar with Snapchat but harder for older users not used to such navigation to learn and master.
😮

What could happen if something went wrong

We're afraid a lot could go wrong with Houseparty. Houseparty doesn't meet our Minimum Security Standards because we were able to use a weak password of 12345 to access the app. It also has a very pretty, easy to read privacy policy where it lays out how it collects and shares a whole lot of personal information on its users. Also, there are few protections to stop people from crashing your party. If you don't lock your party, people you don't know can join. Even if you do lock it, anyone else in the room can unlock it or invite their friends in, which could open the door for creeps and weirdos to come in the room and harrass you. Houseparty is listed for users 12+ in the app store. However in its privacy policy, Houseparty says it is not for users under the age of 13. So parents, be careful about what apps you let your children download (this applies to all apps, not just Houseparty).

Updates

Crashing the party: beware the cyber risks of virtual meet-up apps like Houseparty
The Conversation
The breakout hit has undoubtedly been Houseparty, which bills itself as a “face to face social network”, allowing simultaneous video chat in groups of up to eight users. But with the app’s booming popularity come a growing number of questions about how safe and secure these kinds of apps really are.
Video chat app Houseparty offers $1 million bounty for proof of sabotage after hacking rumors
CNBC
Houseparty, an app that has boomed in popularity amid the coronavirus outbreak, is offering a $1 million bounty reward to anyone who can uncover what it’s calling a “smear campaign” to spread rumors of a cyber breach. The video conferencing app has been the subject of several complaints on social media. Many have alleged that, after downloading Houseparty, they have since been locked out of their accounts from Netflix, PayPal, Spotify and even banking providers.
Houseparty reports 50M sign-ups in past month amid COVID-19 lockdowns
TechCrunch
Houseparty, the popular video chat application acquired by Fortnite maker Epic Games in 2019, has seen massive growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With government lockdowns keeping people from being able to visit friends and other loved ones in person, consumer demand for video chat apps has skyrocketed. This has resulted in the video conferencing category of apps hitting record numbers in March, app store intelligence firm App Annie recently reported
How to prevent unwanted people from joining your Houseparty calls
Android Central
Houseparty, has risen in popularity since people have been isolating themselves. The app allows people to video chat, play games, answer trivia, and more all virtually, making it a safe way to socialize right now. Still, some people have been complaining that random people are joining their video chats.

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