The Muslim Pro app, whose main function is to remind worshippers of the five daily prayer times and indicate the direction of Mecca from their current position, is said to have sold the location data of its users to the US military although it strongly denies such reports.
According to a Vice Media report, the app has been downloaded nearly 100 million times and is used on a daily basis around the world.
Data streams embedded within this and hundreds of other apps, one of which is a Muslim dating app, obtain the location of devices around the world.
The apps contain embedded code that transmits the location of users to data firms who are in turn paid for sharing that information.
One of the buyers of this data is the US Special Operations Command which deals with counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and various covert activities around the world.
The Vice report comments, “That’s especially notable considering that the US has waged a decades-long war on predominantly Muslim terror groups in the Middle East, and because the US military has used location data sourced elsewhere to map drone strikes.”
“Our access to the software is used to meet the requirements of special operations forces missions overseas,” said US Navy Commander Tim Hawkins in a statement. “We strictly adhere to established policies and procedures to protect the privacy, civil liberties, constitutional and legal rights of American citizens.”
Muslim Pro hit out at the reports, calling them incorrect and untrue.
“Muslim Pro is committed to protecting and securing our users’ privacy. This is a matter we take very seriously,” it said in a statement.
Adding that it applies “industry-standard security arrangements and protective measures” to keep its data secure, it said it had also been open and transparent about the personal information it collects.
Acknowledging that it shares “anonymised data” with “selected technology partners who are required to comply with global laws and regulations around data privacy protection”, it said it had launched an internal investigation and is reviewing its governance policy to confirm that all data was handled in line with existing requirements.
“We are committed to helping the Muslim community practise their faith,” it added, apologising for the concern that these reports might have caused.
“We can confirm that your data is safe with us.”