The Muslim Pro prayer app, which has over 98 million downloads, is connected to a supply chain that sends ordinary people’s personal data to the U.S. military, according to an exclusive by VICE.
An investigation found that the U.S. military is buying the data of people around the world, harvested from innocuous-seeming apps.
Through public records, interviews with developers and technical analysis, VICE uncovered two separate, parallel data streams that the U.S. military uses, or has used, to obtain location data.
One relies on a company called Babel Street, which creates a product called Locate X. U.S. Special Operations Command (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 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 military.
Many of the users of apps involved in the data supply chain are Muslim, which is notable considering that the United States has waged decades-long wars in the Middle East, and has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians during its military operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
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Muslim Pro is a product of Bitsmedia. Headquartered in Singapore, the company has expended its regional presence with local offices in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Jakarta, Indonesia.
Muslim Pro has yet to comment on the story so it is not clear if they are aware who their users’ location data ended up with.
As well as Muslim Pro, VICE also installed the Muslim Mingle dating app onto an Android phone and observed the app sending precise geolocation coordinates of the phone’s current location and wifi network name to X-Mode multiple times.
The media outlet also installed another dating app, called Iran Social, on a test device and observed GPS coordinates being sent to the company. The network of apps also includes Turkey Social, Egypt Social, Colombia Social, and others focused on particular countries.
None of these companies has yet commented.