‘X-Mode’ Tracker Continues Location Sales Despite App Store Bans

Written by Luke Smith

The sale of location data to US Military contractors through X-Mode is continuing on an enormous scale, despite developers risking a ban from the Android and App Store.

Hundreds of Android apps have sent granular location data to X-Mode, including several dating sites, messaging services, free video and file converters, and religious/prayer apps.

Some of the apps were still sending location data to X-Mode as recently as December when Apple and Google told developers to remove it from their apps or face a ban from the app stores.

But weeks after the ban took effect, one popular U.S. transit map app that had been installed hundreds of thousands of times was downloadable from Google Play even though it was still sending location data to X-Mode.

New research is believed to be the broadest review to date of apps that collaborate with X-Mode, one of dozens of companies in a multibillion-dollar industry that buys and sells access to the location data collected from ordinary phone apps, often for the purposes of serving targeted advertising.

One dating site accused of selling data to the US Military is Muslim Mingles. Muslim Mingles has more than 100,000 downloads and doesn’t appear to mention ‘X-Mode’ anywhere in its public privacy policy. MuslimPro is also involved in the scheme, a popular prayer app that has been downloaded almost 100 million times.

According to the ‘X-Mode’ website, an app with 50,000 daily active users can earn approximately $1,500 a month for its data.

Sen. Ron Wyden, a vocal privacy critic whose office has been investigating the data broker industry, previously drafted legislation that would grant the Federal Trade Commission new powers to regulate and fine data brokers.

He told TechCrunch: “Americans are sick of learning that their location data is being sold by data brokers to anyone with a credit card.

“Industry self-regulation clearly isn’t working. Congress needs to pass tough legislation, like my Mind Your Own Business Act, to give consumers effective tools to prevent their data being sold and to give the FTC the power to hold companies accountable when they violate Americans’ privacy.”

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