The U.S. military is tracking individuals around the world by buying the location data recorded by otherwise harmless apps on their phones.
Several of these apps are explicitly designed for the global Muslim community, Motherboard reports, the largest of which is a Muslim prayer app with 98 million downloads raising questions — raising questions about the Pentagon’s dragnet surveillance of the Middle East.
According to Motherboard, some app developers may not even know they’re giving data to the military — and users certainly have no idea. The U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) buys data from Babel Street, which also provides services to American police.
Motherboard‘s report is the first indication that the military has joined law enforcement in tracking civilians with these products, which in the U.S. amounts to circumventing the normal rules for obtaining data, which would typically require a warrant.
The military confirmed that it’s actively gathering and making use of the location data.
“Our access to the software is used to support Special Operations Forces mission requirements overseas,” Navy Commander Tim Hawkins told Motherboard. “We strictly adhere to established procedures and policies for protecting the privacy, civil liberties, constitutional and legal rights of American citizens.”
READ MORE: How the U.S. Military Buys Location Data from Ordinary Apps [Motherboard]
More on location data: Cops Are Buying Your Social Media Location Data Without a Warrant