U.S. Military Buys Location Data of Millions of Muslims in Pro Muslim App

The U.S. military reportedly purchased location data for millions of users of the Muslim Pro app. The reason is to track terrorists and prevent acts of terrorism.

The U.S. military reportedly purchased the location data of millions of users of the Muslim community app, Muslim Pro. The reason is to track terrorists and prevent acts of terrorism. According to a report by technology company Motherboard, Muslim Pro sells user location data to a third party called X-Mode. X-Mode data brokers then sell their data to clients, including the U.S. military.

X-Mode said the partnership with the U.S. military focuses on three things. "For counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, and predictions of the future spread of Covid-19," X-Mode was quoted as saying by Business Insider on Monday (16/11). Muslim Pro is an app by Singaporean developer Bitsmedia that has been downloaded 98 million times. The app features daily prayers, Qur'an readings, and prayer time reminders.

Muslim Pro is just one of the hundreds of apps that make money by selling user location data to third-party brokers like X-Mode. In addition to Muslim Pro, X-Mode gets data from weather tracking and search app Craigslist.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military also reportedly purchased data from another third-party broker, Babel Street. According to public procurement records, Special Operations Command spent US$ 90,656 last April to purchases location data from Babel Street.

Babel Street mines data from apps on mobile phones and sells products called Locate X. It lets people choose the area they want to monitor and shows the movement of every device in the area. Babel Street clients, including the U.S. military, can request to locate a particular device after paying to access the data.

U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Tim Hawkins said the purchase of data from Babel Street to support special operations forces missions overseas. "We strictly comply with established procedures and policies to protect the privacy, civil liberties, constitutional and legal rights of U.S. citizens," he said.

In addition to the military, The Intercept reports the U.S. national security agency uses different types of location data collected from sim cards to conduct drone strikes against suspected Taliban members. Israel, meanwhile, makes its software to track terrorists and spy on civilians. This application made by the NSO Group is also exported to other countries. The software can be used to eavesdrop on civilian conversations, monitor e-mails, hack apps, and record conversations.

A Haaretz investigation that included 100 sources in 15 countries revealed Israel sold its app to dictators around the world. Besides, to countries that have no formal relations with Israel. Some of the export destinations are Bahrain, Angola, Mozambique, Dominican Republic, Azerbaijan, Swaziland, Botswana, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua, and Indonesia. WhatsApp has even sued NSO Group over hacking allegations in 20 countries on four continents. Some of the countries identified in the hack were Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. The targets range from diplomats, government opposition, journalists, and senior local government officials. In a statement, WhatsApp said that 100 members of civil society claimed to have been hacked. "Undoubtedly, this is a real pattern of (technological) harassment," WhatsApp was quoted as saying by Reuters in October last year ( 30/10/2019).

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