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U.S. Military Buys Location Data from Ordinary Apps Including Muslim Prayer Apps

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#1 [Permalink] Posted on 17th November 2020 16:05
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#2 [Permalink] Posted on 18th November 2020 10:53
abu mohammed wrote:
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In response to the above posts in both threads:

www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/11/18/muslim-pro-app-denies-s...

‘Untrue’: Muslim Pro app denies selling user data to US military

Popular Muslim prayer app says it is committed to protecting users’ privacy after Motherboard investigation causes uproar.

18 Nov 2020

A popular Islamic prayer and Quran app has dismissed a report that said it was selling the private data of its users to brokers who then handed it to the United States military.

“Media reports are circulating that Muslim Pro has been selling personal data of its users to the US military. This [is] incorrect and untrue,” the popular app’s developers said in a statement posted on their website on Tuesday.


The developers of the app, which “reaches almost 100 million users across more than 216 countries worldwide”, said they are “committed to protecting and securing our users’ privacy”.

“This is a matter we take very seriously,” said the statement.

Muslim Pro came under fire after an investigation by the online magazine, Motherboard, found that the app was one among hundreds that allegedly made money by selling the users’ location data to third-party brokers, which were then bought by the US military.

X-Mode, one of the companies involved in selling the location data, said it tracks 25 million devices inside the US every month and 40 million elsewhere – including in the European Union, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific region.

In its statement, Muslim Pro announced it was cutting ties with the company.

“We have decided to terminate our relationships with all data partners, including X-Mode, effective immediately,” it said.

X-Mode told Motherboard its business with US military contractors is “international and primarily focused on three use cases: counterterrorism, cybersecurity and predicting future COVID-19 hotspots”.

Motherboard used network analysis software that revealed both the Android and iOS versions of the app were sending location data to the “X-Mode endpoint”.

Other apps that featured in the investigation included dating app Muslim Mingle that has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

The US military confirmed the Motherboard report, saying they use the data to support “Special Operations Forces mission requirements overseas”.

But Muslim Pro users expressed dismay over the report on social media, with many leaving negative reviews or saying they will delete it from their devices.
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#3 [Permalink] Posted on 18th November 2020 11:09
Moved to "Truth or Hoax"
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#4 [Permalink] Posted on 14th January 2021 09:21
www.trtworld.com/magazine/another-muslim-prayer-app-track...

Salaat First is the second app in two months that has come under criticism for sharing user data belonging to Muslims with US contractors who are linked to the US security establishment.


Salaat First, a muslim app that has more than ten million downloads, sold location data to Predicio. ( TRTWorld )
An app that calculates Muslim prayer times worldwide, reminding the faithful when to pray, has been storing user locations and selling them to third parties.

Vice News reported on Monday that the location datasets showing the precise movements of its users were sold to Predicio, a French company reportedly linked to a US contractor which can claim historic dealings with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

The news about Salaat First came only two months after the revelation that the US military was collecting sensitive location data through another prayer and Quran app, Muslim pro, along with some others. The US military also had access to apps such as Mingle, a Muslim dating app, a Craiglist app, and a level app used for measuring.

One of the two parallel data streams that the US military uses was relying on “a company called Babel Street, which creates a product called Locate X US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), a branch of the military tasked with counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and special reconnaissance,” the Vice report from November 2020 said. A company called X-Mode, which was obtaining location data directly from apps was providing the other stream of information.

The reports from Vice note that many of its users whose information has been shared were Muslims. It is highly likely this has been done without their informed consent.

Salaat First has been downloaded more than 10 million times on Android. It is also available on iOS, but only the Android version sends data to Predicio. The app also violates Google's Play Store policies by not asking for a user’s consent to share location data with Predicio, even though an archived policy in their website mentioned it, Motherboard found.

Following the revelation of this data breach, Apple and Google pushed location Tracker X-Mode out of App Stores, while Muslim Pro announced they stopped sharing location data.

The developer behind Salaat First told Vice that the data collection can only occur if the user had downloaded the application in the UK, Germany, France, or Italy, as per the agreement he reached with Predicio in March 2020. However, many are in the dark about this agreement, and Google has now informed Vice that it would take action after concluding investigations regarding the data collecting claims.

Predicio previously claimed on the company’s website that it was not using “business intelligence data to identify ethnic, religious, or political groups for human tracking or people identification of any sort,” after another Vice collaborative report with NRK on the company.

“Despite saying it does not support use cases to identify religious groups, the statement does not mention that Predicio was collecting granular location data from an explicitly Muslim-focused app,” the recent report noted.

Wawow, a weather app which also shared data with Predicio, told Motherboard that he has cut off the data transfer to the French company.

The news regarding Salaat First “highlights not only the use of religious apps to harvest location data, but also the ease at which this sensitive information is traded in the location data industry,” explained Motherboard’s Joseph Cox, the reporter who has been investigating the data breach.
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