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French app users sue Muslim Pro over alleged data sharing with US military

Lawsuit accuses Muslim Pro of data protection offences, abuse of trust, endangering other people's lives, and conspiracy to commit murder
Muslim Pro told MEE that it denies selling its data to US military and that it was ending all sharing of its data with companies (Facebook/Muslim Pro)

French users of a popular Muslim prayer app are suing the company for sharing data with companies connected to the US military, their lawyers said on Monday.

Former subscribers to the Muslim Pro application, which claims to have 95 million users, filed the complaint after a report by Vice's Motherboard said the US military purchased the location data of millions of Muslims from around the world.

The lawsuit, which is set to be filed on Tuesday, was revealed by France's RTL radio and accuses the company of data protection offences, abuse of trust, endangering other people's lives, and conspiracy to commit murder.

The Muslim Pro app determines the hour of prayer and the direction of Mecca for its users based on geolocation.

The company is reported to have sold this data to a company called X-Mode, which then sold it on to third-party contractors, including defence contractors and the US military. 

The data that X-Mode sold to the US military was used for "counter-terrorism, cybersecurity and predicting future COVID-19 hotspots", according to Vice.

US military buying location data harvested from popular Muslim apps: Report
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A day after the report came out, Muslim Pro told Middle East Eye that it denied both selling its data to the military and also said it was ending all sharing of its data with companies, including X-Mode.

The company, founded by a French national based in Singapore, also said it had launched an internal investigation.

While Muslim Pro denies that it sold data to the US military, by acknowledging that it had a relationship with X-Mode it may have conceded that it violated its own privacy agreement, which does not list the company among the entities it shares data with.

Singapore's Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) said it was investigating the allegations and had requested more information from app developer Bitsmedia.

Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organisation in the US, called for a congressional inquiry into the possible surveillance of American Muslims and warned members of the faith group to stop using the application. 

"We call upon Congress to conduct a thorough public inquiry into the government's use of personal data to target the Muslim community here and abroad, including whether this data was used to illegally spy upon target Muslim Americans," said CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad. 

Senator Ron Wyden said an investigation into the data broker industry showed that as of September, X Mode was "selling data collected from phones in the United States to U.S. military customers, via defense contractors".

"Every single American has the right to practice their religion without being spied on," Wyden tweeted. "I will continue to watchdog this announcement and ensure Americans' constitutional rights are protected."