Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 4 December 2020

Muslim Pro app ends data firm deal after reports US military was buyer

Muslim Pro denies 'incorrect' reports that it had sold 'identifiable' users data to X-Mode

The Muslim Pro app has a geolocation option that enables users to determine the hour of prayer and the direction of Mecca. AFP
The Muslim Pro app has a geolocation option that enables users to determine the hour of prayer and the direction of Mecca. AFP

Prayer app Muslim Pro said it has terminated a partnership contract effective 'immediately' after a Vice report that it had sold users' data to the US military.

Muslim Pro categorically denied the claims.

The allegations made about the app in a Vice report caused a stir in the online Muslim community. The report alleges that the data reportedly sold by Muslim Pro to X-Mode, a location data company, included Wi-Fi network information, timestamps and the model of the device using Muslim Pro.

“On 16 November 2020, Vice media reported that the Muslim prayer app Muslim Pro was selling personal data of its users to the US military. This is incorrect and untrue,” Muslim Pro told The National on Tuesday.

After the release of the report, the hashtag #UninstallMuslimPro trended on social media, with many users saying they had already removed the application from their phones, while others promoted the use of alternative apps.

Muslim Pro is used by millions to find prayer timings according to geographical location, Qibla angle (the direction of the Kaaba in Makkah that Muslims pray towards), and features a digital version of the Quran with an explanation of the verses as well as other features.

In a CNN interview, X-Mode founder Josh Anton said the company tracks 25 million devices every month in the US and 40 million across the world. Mr Anton claimed in the interview that X-Mode keeps users' information anonymous.

The National has contacted X-Mode for comment on the allegations.

“We adhere to the most stringent privacy standards and data protection regulations, and never share any personal identifiable information,” Muslim Pro said.

Muslim Pro did not immediately respond to The National's request for a clarification about whether it was selling anonymised data.

“Regardless, in respect of the trust millions of prayers put in Muslim Pro every day, we are immediately terminating our relationships with our data partners – including with X-Mode, which started four weeks ago,” it said.

One former Muslim Pro user, Shereen Helal, 24, a Canada-based postgraduate student, said she uninstalled the application "in a panic” once she read the news.

“The fact that it’s a Muslim app stings the most,” she told The National.

“I’ve had the app for as long as I can remember. Since I spend time in non-Muslim countries, it has become a lot easier for me to use Muslim Pro for prayer timings than to check at my local mosque every few days for these timings,” Ms Helal said.

A UAE media executive told The National she was “not surprised” about the news.

“It’s a foregone conclusion that app developers will find avenues to monetise the data they collect,” she said.

A 2017 Deloitte survey of 2,000 people in the US found that 91 per cent "willingly accept legal terms and conditions without reading them before installing apps, registering Wi-Fi hot spots, accepting updates, and signing on to online services such as video streaming".

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, an advocacy and public policy organisation in Los Angeles, said: “We must increase our data privacy literacy and collectively work to ensure transparency and equity in our data collection practices.”

Updated: November 18, 2020 09:53 AM

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