French users of a Muslim prayer app accused of selling data that ended up with the US army are suing the company, their lawyers said Monday.
Former subscribers to the Muslim Pro app, which claims to have 95 million users around the world, have filed the complaint after media reports accused the group of having shared its data with companies connected to the US army.
The lawsuit, revealed by France’s RTL radio, accuses the company of data protection offences, abuse of trust, endangering other people’s lives and conspiracy to commit murder. The case is due to be filed on Tuesday.
It follows a report by the Vice media group last week about how the US army bought up users’ geolocation data from a string of apps around the world.
They include the Muslim Pro app, which has a geolocation option that enables users to determine the hour of prayer and the direction of Mecca. The company sold this data to a company called X-Mode, which sold it on to sub-contractors and by extension, the army, said Vice.
US Special Forces could then use the data on overseas missions, the report said, speculating that they could be used for the extra-judicial executions of terror suspects by means of drone strikes.
New from me: Muslims have been the subject of mass government surveillance for years, at times, for simply practicing their faith or participating in faith-based activities. That's why Muslim Pro's sale of location info felt like such a violation https://t.co/omvxaUrcuP
— Johana Bhuiyan (@JMBooyah) November 23, 2020
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.
Muslim Pro denies allegations of selling user data
Last week, the Muslim pro’s team issued a statement rejecting claims circulating in the media that the app has been selling its user’s personal data to US military. The statement called these claims “incorrect and untrue”.
It explained that the app takes pride in respecting the anonymity of their users, and the functionality of their features is not even dependent on signing or logging in, except for the “community section”.
Media reports are circulating that Muslim Pro has been selling personal data of its users to the US Military. This is INCORRECT and UNTRUE. Muslim Pro is committed to protecting and securing our users’ privacy. This is a matter we take very seriously. #MuslimPro pic.twitter.com/2Lu0Zgvso1
— Muslim Pro (@MuslimPro) November 17, 2020
“We apply industry-standard security arrangements and protective measures and select leading technology partners to keep our data safe and secure on our cloud infrastructure. We have also been open and transparent about the personal information we collect, store and process because the trust of millions of brothers and sisters of the Ummah put in Muslim Pro every day means everything to us,” the statement read.
The prayer app has initiated an internal investigation and it is reviewing their data governance policy to make sure all user data is “handled in line with all existing requirements.” Muslim Pro admitted to sharing “anonymized” data their selected technology partners who are bound by laws and regulations to respect and protect their user’s privacy. The prayer app did so to improve their services and “help businesses enhance their product and service offerings.”
“Regardless, we have decided to terminate our relationships with all data partners, including X-Mode, effective immediately,” the statement said.
“We are committed to helping the Muslim community practice their faith. Our comprehensive Islamic mobile application, reaches almost 100 million users across more than 216 countries worldwide. We apologize to all our users for the concern that these reports have caused them and we can confirm that your data is secure with us. We value the importance of practicing one’s faith as well as our users’ privacy and will do everything we can to ensure we deliver on this promise,” the statement added.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk