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Muslim Pro Responds “Incorrect, Untrue” but Fails to Mention Why

Written by Shoaib

In a widely reported story it was claimed that the US Military is buying location data about Muslims from Muslim prayer, Quran and dating apps. In extraordinary claims reported by Motherboard from VICE, such location data has previously been harvested and used to take carry out targeted drone strikes and assasinations.

The story spread across the Muslim world with widespread condemnation. Many people deleted the apps named; ‘Muslim Pro’ and ‘Muslim Mingle’.

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The article states “Through public records, interviews with developers, and technical analysis, Motherboard 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.”

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The source of the story is a former employee of Babel Street (X-Mode) who described how location data can be gathered to find a specific device’s location. While the company itself says it anonymized data, the source said it was possible to reverse that.

It is not just Muslim audience apps but around 400 such apps track 65 Million devices around the world. These included ‘Accupedo’, ‘CPlus for Craigslist’ and ‘Global Storms’.

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VICE’s Motherboard claims they witnessed both Android and iOS versions of Muslim Pro sending precise location data as well as timestamps, wifi data, and phone data multiple times.

VICE states at the time of the writing of the article “Muslim Pro did not respond to multiple requests for comment.”

Muslim Pro Responds

Muslim Pro today released a statement stating it had terminated their relationship with their data partners including X-Mode. The statement read the following:

“Media reports are circulating that Muslim Pro has been selling personal data of its users to the US Military. This is INCORRECT and UNTRUE.

Muslim Pro is committed to protecting and securing our users’ privacy. This is a matter we take very seriously.

We apply industry-standard security arrangements and protective measures and select leading technology partners to keep our data safe and secure on our cloud infrastructure. We have also been open and transparent about the personal information we collect, store and process because the trust of millions of brothers and sisters of the Ummah put in Muslim Pro every day means everything to us.

Also to note, that apart from our Community section, every single feature of the Muslim Pro app is available without signing up or logging in. This contributes to the anonymity of data we collect and process.

In our efforts to better serve our users and help businesses enhance their product and service offerings, we shared anonymized data with selected technology partners who are required to comply with global laws and regulations around data privacy protection. Since we were made aware of the situation, we have launched an internal investigation and are reviewing our data governance policy to confirm that all user data was handled in line with all existing requirements.

Regardless, we have decided to terminate our relationships with all data partners, including X-Mode, effective immediately.

We are committed to helping the Muslim community practice their faith. Our comprehensive Islamic mobile application, reaches almost 100 million users across more than 216 countries worldwide. We apologize to all our users for the concern that these reports have caused them and we can confirm that your data is secure with us.

We value the importance of practicing one’s faith as well as our users’ privacy and will do everything we can to ensure we deliver on this promise.”

– Muslim Pro Team

It is not clear why Muslim pro has claimed the story is “incorrect and untrue”. They fall short of explaining how the evidence mounted in the detailed report by VICE was incorrect or untrue.

Also the VICE Motherboard report did not claim that sign up or log in data was used to harvest location data, yet the Muslim Pro statement centres their reassurances of anonymity around this.

Muslim Pro admits that they “shared anonymized data with selected technology partners” but then claim that this was “required to comply with global laws and regulations around data privacy protection”

If these are required to comply with global laws and regulations, then how have they now cancelled these data contracts while still complying to the same standards?

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The statement also falls short of apologising for Muslim Pro’s oversight in their, now cancelled, data partnerships. Instead they apologised for the concern caused by the VICE report.

If the claims are untrue and incorrect then why were data partnerships terminated?

Muslim Pro say they have launched an internal investigation, but the investigation is not to see how Muslim Pro got into a contract with a data partner who passed on data to the US Military. Instead it is “to confirm that all user data was handled in line with all existing requirements”.

But no one has raised questions whether Muslim Pro’s data was handled in line with legal requirements, since passing such details to the US Military would be legal and in line with app requirements.

No doubt when agreeing to terms and conditions most users would not think this means that the US military may now be able to derive their location and other information. Chris Hoofnagle, faculty director at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology said “It is safe to say from this context that the reasonable consumer—who is not a tech person—would not have military uses of their data in mind, even if they read the disclosures”

With smart phones so integral to our lives, the dangers of location or personal data falling into the wrong hands is becoming a foreseeable risk. All companies need to tackle this and not put profit before human rights. Muslim companies need to ensure that data is handled correctly and when found to have failed, should apologise and rectify the issue.

I personally have deleted Muslim Pro app for now, as their statement has done little to reassure. Perhaps their investigation will reveal where failings took place and perhaps then they will see the need to apologise.

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CEO of | Director of the Organisation for the Conservation of Islamic Heritage | President of | Editor Muslim World Journal | Pharmacist | You can find me on Instagram and Facebook

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