UK university students build 'privacy-focused' prayer app: report

UK university students build 'privacy-focused' Muslim prayer app: report
2 min read
20 May, 2021
'Pillar', which has been downloaded 20,000 times since going live on May 1, was designed following a backlash among Muslims over allegations that Muslim Pro had sold user location data that later reached US government agencies.
To address privacy concerns, Pillar calculates prayer times using location data on user’s devices instead of sending their location to a server [Getty]

Two UK university students have built a new Muslim prayer to allay fears surrounding the tracking and surveillance of Muslims via mobile technology.

Abdul-Rahman Abbas and Tariq Imaad Jamal designed the app, named Pillar, through incorporating user feedback on a preliminary release. Since going live on May 1, it has been downloaded 20,000 times.

This app’s creation comes after an investigative report last year revealed that Muslim Pro, one of the world’s most popular Muslim prayer apps, had sold user location data that later reached US government agencies.

A day after the report was published, Muslim pro announced it was ending data sharing with other companies.  

Subsequent reports by US-based media outlet Motherboard exposed links between other prayer apps and data brokers which had sold data to US military contractors and law enforcement agencies.

Read more: Muslim prayer app 'sold users' tracking data' to contractor linked to US government agencies: report

With the Council of American-Islamic relations at one point warning Muslim Americans to stop using such applications, Abbas told Buzzfeed that the initial report had shocked him.

The backlash among the Muslim community prompted the pair to develop a new app. After receiving a positive social media response to their plan, they asked people to test out a beta version and provide feedback in a survey or via Twitter.

To address privacy concerns, Pillar calculates prayer times using location data on user’s devices instead of sending their location to a server, according to app’s creators.

“No data whatsoever is sent to Pillar or stored by ourselves [and] no other data is collected (including analytics or personal information),” the Pillar website reads.

Users across the world have praised the app for its add-free minimalist design. Abbas and Jamal hope to improve their creation by incorporating new features soon, including a prayer tracker.