Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) are putting an end to data broker X-Mode Social Inc.’s tracking and selling location data from mobile devices. X-Mode’s tracking software running in some apps on mobile devices collects and sells location data of users.
Google and Apple ban apps running X-Mode software from Apps Store
The tech companies told developers last week that they must remove X-Mode’s tracking code from their apps or they risk removal from app stores. X-Mode gives developers tracking software called an SDK that they integrate into apps to track the location of users. They then send the data to X-mode which sells the information and pays developers a certain percentage depending on the number of users using the app. Currently, the technology is in more than 400 apps including apps designed for Muslims like the Muslim-focused dating app and the one reminding users to pray.
Google and Apple disclosed the move to ban X-mode to Senator Ron Wyden’s investigators. Wyden has been investigating the sale of location information to government entities. According to a statement from Google, developers have seven days to do away with X-Mode software or be banned from Play Store. A company spokesperson said that developers could request a 30-days extension to comply. On the other hand, Apple said that developers had a two-week notice to do away with the X-Mode software tracker.
Muslims targeted by X-Mode software collecting their location data
Although the tracking model of users’ location and selling the information is not new, what might have got X-Mode banned is the sale of the data to the US military. What is even concerning is that most of the apps with the X-Mode software have been designed for Muslims. As a result, it is understandable why the trend would be worrying.
Often the government buys location information from data brokers that aggregate the data from different sources and not from companies collecting the information. X-Mode says that it has been targeted yet it collects the same data that other advertising SDKs collect.