Five more Muslim prayer apps found to be selling data to US military-linked X-Mode

Five more Muslim prayer apps found to be selling data to US military-linked X-Mode
The apps now revealed to have links with X-Mode have been downloaded by millions of users around the world.
2 min read
29 January, 2021
Five more Muslim prayer apps have been linked to X-Mode [Getty/ Archive]
At least five more apps related to Muslim prayer times have been linked to data broker X-mode, which was revealed to have sold location data to US military contractors, according to new reports.

Scrutiny of how data is used by Muslim prayer apps intensified in November when a report found that the popular Muslim Pro app had sold data that would later reach US intelligence services.

The latest reports on other similar apps follow the publication of a memo by the office of Senator Ron Wuden, which said that Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) staff were granted permission to query US phone location data five times in the past two years.

Motherboard, a US-based media outlet covering technology, first released a report on Muslim Pro app in November.

Now, new technological analysis by Sean O'Brien from the ExpressVPN Digital Security Lab and Esther Onfroy from the Defensive Lab Agency revealed that five apps may have had the presence of X-Mode within them.

Further analysis by Motherboard confirmed that versions of the apps available in 2020 did send location data to X-Mode.

The apps revealed to have sold data to X-Mode include: Prayer Times: Qibla Compass, Quran Mp3 & AzaQibla Finder: Prayer Times, Quran MP3 & Aza and Qibla Compass - Prayer Times, Quran MP3 & Azan.

The most popular of the apps, Qibla Compass, has been downloaded more than five million times on the Google Play Store.

Qibla Compass's India-based developers declined requests for comment from Motherboard in November, when the relationship between the app and X-Mode was first revealed.

Developers behind the other apps have also declined requests for comment, according to Vice.

The new revelations have sparked further anger from Muslim groups, who received the initial reports about the Muslim Pro app in November with dismay.

"Using an app to check prayer times should not lead a Muslim to become a victim of government surveillance," Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Motherboard in a statement. 

A day after the Muslim Pro report came out last year, Muslim Pro's developers said they were ending all data sharing with other companies.

The company, which was founded by a French national who is based in Singapore, also said it has launched an internal investigation.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other NGOs have since demanded that the US government hand over records that could reveal how it acquired location data. The ACLU says the information could help prevent data harvesting targeting minority groups in future.

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