MuslimPro is a well-known app in the Muslim community, carrying features such as prayer times and reminders, Qiblah direction, du’as, and the Quran. Created by Bitsmedia, the app had about 98 million users up until last week.
Last week, the tech publication Motherboard reported that X-Mode, a data broker that buys user data from Bitsmedia and then sells that information to contractors, has U.S military contractors on their client list. An investigation led by Vice revealed the branch of the U.S military purchasing user location data from X-Mode to be the branch responsible for reconnaissance, counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism, which made people question the racial undertones in the demographic they’re targeting.
This caused an uproar from people across the world, within the Muslim community, and even outside of it. Allies of the Muslim community have also proposed the solution of non-Muslims downloading the app to change the demographic and data, which would make it more difficult for the data broker to pinpoint and target the Muslim community. The publication also led to the mass call, from users across social media platforms and mosques of several large communities, to delete the app from their devices. According to the Los Angeles Times, “‘Majlis Ash-Shura, a leadership council that represents 90 New York state mosques, sent a notification urging people to delete Muslim Pro, citing “safety and data privacy.’”
The country’s largest Muslim advocacy and civil liberties group, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), sent multiple letters to U.S House Committee chairs requesting the investigation of the military’s purchase of location data of apps created for Muslims. They also call for the passing of legislation to prohibit the U.S government from buying user data without a warrant.
Two days after the incident, Muslim Pro released a statement in which they denied the direct selling of user data to the U.S military, but did confirm their relationship with X-Mode. They also claimed that user data was always left anonymous and that they intend to end their contract with the data broker company. In their statement, they state, “We have decided to terminate our relationships with all data partners, including X-Mode, effective immediately,”
Imam Omar Suleiman, founder of Yaqeen Institute, expressed his dissatisfaction with their statement, stating, “They should have said, ‘Look, we totally messed up. We should not have done that. We need to be more careful. And these are the steps that we’re going to take to remedy the situation.’ Instead, it seems like the response was just very defensive,” which leaves Muslims wary of whom to trust, as an invasion of privacy is not uncommon to the community.
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