A very popular Muslim prayer and Quran app Muslim Pro (iOS, Android) said that they have “terminated relationships with all data partners”. This includes X-Mode—a location data firm that has sold information to clients, which include the U.S. Military.
How did the U.S. Military get the data?
Vice previously reported on 16 November about how the U.S. Military buys location data from several apps including a popular Craigslist app, and an app for following storms. But the most notable app—Muslim Pro—has more than 98 million downloads worldwide.
A way that the U.S. Military gets data is through a company called X-Mode, which obtains location data directly from apps, then sells that data to contractors. The apps that sent data to X-Mode included Muslim Pro and Muslim Mingle—a dating app that has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.
According to Vice, some app developers were not aware who their location data ends up with. They may not even know how many different industries, companies, or government agencies are buying some of their most sensitive data.
Vice’s research also observed that both the Android and iOS versions of the Muslim Pro app sent granular location data to the X-Mode endpoint multiple times. The data transfer also included the name of the WiFi network the phone was connected to, a timestamp, and information about the phone like its model.
Muslim Pro’s response
A day after Vice’s report, Muslim Pro put out a press release to state that info of the app selling personal data to the U.S. Military is incorrect. They added that they have decided to terminate 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 apologise to all our users for the concern that these reports have caused them and we can confirm that your date is secure with us,” wrote the Muslim Pro team.
Muslim Pro told Vice that their relationship with X-Mode started four weeks ago. And since they were made aware of the situation, they have “launched an internal investigation” and are reviewing their data governance policy “to confirm that all user data was handled in line with all existing requirements”.
Since 2017, Muslim Pro’s majority owners are CMIA Capital Partners and Bintang Capital Partners—which owns the largest stake and is part of a Malaysian Armed Forces Pension fund. The app was also was one of the first companies to be labelled an Islamic Digital Economy Compliant Startup—by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).