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US military buying data mined from Muslim apps

Motherboard said many of the app users whose data was mined were Muslims (Getty)

Date of publication: 17 November, 2020

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The US military is buying data of people around the world, harvested apps, which seem to target Muslims in particular, reports Motherboard.
The US military is buying data of people around the world, harvested apps, which seem to target Muslims in particular Motherboard has reported.

"The most popular app among a group Motherboard analyzed connected to this sort of data sale is a Muslim prayer and Quran app that has more than 98 million downloads worldwide," Motherboard reported.

"The news highlights the opaque location data industry and the fact that the U.S. military, which has infamously used other location data to target drone strikes, is purchasing access to sensitive data," the report read.

Muslim Pro has been downloaded over 98 million times according to Muslim Pro's website.

The report said said two companies have been used by the US military to obtain movement data of users.

"One relies on a company called Babel Street, which creates a product called Locate X and 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 [US] military," the Motherboard investigation revealed. 

Another app that sent data to X-Mode was Muslim Mingle, a dating app. It has been downloaded more than 100,000 times, as reported by Motherboard.

"In my opinion, it is practically certain that foreign entities will try to leverage (and are almost certainly actively exploiting) similar sources of private platform user data. I think it would be naïve to assume otherwise," Mark Tallman, assistant professor at the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, told Motherboard.

Responding to the report, Chris Hoofnagle, faculty director at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, told Motherboard:

"The question to ask is whether a reasonable consumer of these services would foresee of these uses and agree to them if explicitly asked. 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."

Motherboard said that many of the app users whose data was mined were Muslims, and comes at a time when US warfare continues in Muslim-majority countries.

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