If you are a Muslim using a smartphone, there are high chances you are a user of Muslim Pro, the most downloaded Muslim app in the world. Muslim Pro gives precise daily prayer times and also gives users the direction to the Qiblah (direction for prayers to Makkah) in relation to your current location. But in a shocking revelation, an investigative report has found that Muslim Pro and Muslim Mingle, a popular Muslim matrimonial app have sold user’s location data to the US military in an outrageous breach of trust.
A Motherboard report revealed on Monday that the US military is one of the buyers of location data mined from several popular Muslim apps such as Muslim Pro and Muslim Mingle.
“The most popular app among a group Motherboard analysed connected to this sort of data sale is a Muslim prayer and Quran app that has more than 98 million downloads worldwide,” the technology website reported on Monday.
It said two different methods have been used by the US military, to obtain the location data of the app users.
“One relies on a company called Babel Street, which creates a product called Locate X and the other stream is through a company called X-Mode, which obtains location data directly from apps, then sells that data to contractors, and by extension, the [US] military,” the Motherboard investigation revealed.
According to Motherboard, US Special Operations Command (or USSOCOM), a branch of the military tasked with counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and special reconnaissance, “bought access to Locate X to assist on overseas special forces operations.”
“The apps sending data to X-Mode include Muslim Pro, an app that reminds users when to pray and what direction Mecca is in relation to the user’s current location,” it said. The report, however, said it does not know of any specific operations in which this type of app-based location data has been used by the US military.
Muslim Pro has been downloaded over 90 million times worldwide across Android and iOS devices and Muslim Mingle has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.
Motherboard said that many of the app users whose data was mined were Muslims, an unsurprising but still a disconcerting mention considering the ongoing of US occupation, aggressive warfare and political involvement in Muslim-majority countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.
Motherboard citing Senator Ron Wyden said that X-Mode was selling location data harvested from US phones to US military customers.
“In a September call with my office, lawyers for the data broker X-Mode Social confirmed that the company is selling data collected from phones in the United States to US military customers, via defence contractors,” the statement said.
“Citing non-disclosure agreements, the company refused to identify the specific defence contractors or the specific government agencies buying the data.”
The practice of these popular apps, which profit from Muslims and then sell their data to government agencies has caused a social media stir, with many accusing these apps of ‘treachery’.
The app, called Muslim Pro, collects user location data to tell them what time to pray and which direction Mecca is in. It then sells that data to a company called X-Mode, which sells to U.S. military contractors
— Jason Koebler (@jason_koebler) November 16, 2020
— Khalid Wardak (@khalid_vardak) November 16, 2020
— Anisa Tariq (@Pablo_Aniso) November 16, 2020
I can’t believe MuslimPro is selling us out like this, time to start using a stick and checking the shadows to figure out salah times. https://t.co/wM5JpKrYdE
— Najma Sharif (@overdramatique) November 16, 2020