ACLU demands records on Muslim prayer app data gathering

ACLU demands records on data US agencies gathered from Muslim prayer app
2 min read
04 December, 2020
The advocacy group submitted a Freedom of Information act (Foia) request on Thursday alongside CUNY Law School’s Clear clinic.
The ACLU says the records could shed light on how Muslims were targeted [Getty/ Archive]

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is demanding that the US government hand over records that could reveal how it acquired location data from mobile phone apps, including one used by millions of Muslims around the world.

The advocacy group submitted a Freedom of Information act (Foia) request on Thursday alongside CUNY Law School’s Clear clinic, after reports emerged last month that data gathered by the Muslim Pro app was sold to US defence and militarty contractors.

Data was also gathered from a Muslim dating app, a Craigslist app, and a weather tracking app.

The ACLU says the records could shed light on how Muslims were targeted and could help prevent similar data harvesting happening again.

“The harvesting of data on Muslim app users worldwide is a serious threat to privacy and religious freedom,” the ACLU said on Twitter on Thursday. “This is yet another betrayal of trust for communities who have long been subjected to intrusive, often unconstitutional surveillance by governments in the United States,” it added.

The Foia request was filed against 10 federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the CIA, the FBI and each branch of the US military.

 “These developments raise serious concerns about the scope of the Agencies’ purchases, the Agencies’ discriminatory focus on Muslims, and the warrantless acquisition and use of location information from people inside the United States,” teh ACLU said.

Last month, a report by Motherboard revealed that US agencies purchsed location data that could be used by
US Special Forces on overseas missions. The report speculated that the data could be used for the extra-judicial executions of terror suspects by means of drone strikes.

The report put the Muslim Pro app, which has a geolocation option that enables users to determine the hour of prayer and the direction of Mecca, under the spotlight.

A day after the report came out, Muslim Pro said it was ending all sharing of its data 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.

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