If you’re using a prayer app that someone else might be listening to, the report finds

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Photo (c) Alberto Masnovo – Getty Images

As part of its process of reviewing products that connect a person’s privacy and security online and with other companies, a new report from the Mozilla Foundation takes aim at apps it says are “super scary ” with regard to user privacy.

The report focuses its attention on mental health and prayer apps, saying their privacy standards are worse than any other product category.

Foundation analysts say some of these apps routinely share data, allow weak passwords, bombard powerless users with personalized ads, and live on unclear and unintelligible privacy policies.

“They track, share, and leverage users’ innermost personal thoughts and feelings, like moods, mental state, and biometrics,” said Jen Caltrider, Mozilla’s *Privacy Not Include manager.

“It turns out that searching for mental health apps isn’t good for your mental health, because it reveals how careless and cowardly these companies can be with our most intimate personal information.”

The study looked at 32 mental health and prayer apps and anointed all but four with a warning label *Privacy Not Included and said most were “exceptionally scary”. One of those 28 offenders is the faith-based app Pray.com.

The app serves a number of functions, including as a social media platform for religious communities. Churches and other religious organizations use the platform to engage in discussions, live streaming services, and solicit and receive donations.

People using the app can participate in “prayer communities” where users can request and respond to prayer requests.

It sounds innocent enough, but the question may arise as to how this highly personal data is handled. ThreatPost reported that at the end of 2020 Pray.com data leaked private data for up to 10 million people.

This data leak included lists of church attendees containing information about each worshiper, such as names, mailing and email addresses, phone numbers, and marital status. Additionally, ThreatPost reported that information exposed in a public cloud bucket also included church donation information, photos, and user contact lists.

Pray for your privacy

In a recent Freakonomics Radio podcast, author Stephen Dubner investigated the faith-based app landscape, of which Pray.com is just one part. Dubner expressed concern that these apps were sharing user data with Facebook. The Mozilla Foundation report indicates that this is a real concern.

“If you use Pray.com, you better pray for your privacy. Because Pray.com is absolutely horrible when it comes to the privacy and security of its users,” the Mozilla analysts wrote.

The main stress point for analysts was the figurative ton of personal information turned into an asset and a healthy source of income.

“Pray.com then states that they may use all of this data to target you with ads, share with third parties to target you with ads, and share with other ‘faith-based organizations’ so they can target you as well” , says the report.

“We don’t mean to be, well, mean, but Pray.com really feels like it could be a data collection company targeting Christians for purposes that go far beyond them. help in their prayer journey. … This all sounds a bit gross to us.

Advice from the Mozilla Foundation? “Find another prayer app.”

ConsumerAffairs reached out to Pray.com and Facebook for comment, but did not receive answers to questions we posed regarding privacy policies, personal data shared, and for what purposes personal data is shared.

Whatever the application, you should always be careful

Are there any prayer apps that the Foundation has spared from being labeled “*Privacy not included”? Yes, one. Of those listed, the only ConsumerAffairs found that met these criteria and readers weren’t rated as “Super Creepy” was the “Hallow” app.

To Hallow’s credit, the researchers said the company was the only one that answered all of its questions and even updated its password requirement to require users to log in with a strong password when the Foundation noted that the application allowed the use of a relatively weak password. like “11111”.

Alongside Pray.com, others in the category not meeting the criteria by both researchers and readers were the King James Bible Daily Verse and Audio and Abide. There was one app – Glorify – which was a split decision. Foundation researchers gave it a thumbs up, but readers called it “super scary.”

So what does someone who wants to engage with a prayer app have to do? If you decide to find another, be careful, Harold Li, vice president of ExpressVPN, told ConsumerAffairs.

“This is not the first time faith-based apps have been caught sharing data with third parties. Last year, ExpressVPN conducted extensive research into location trackers embedded in 450 social, messaging, and faith-based apps to measure the extent to which they impinge on the location privacy of individuals around the world,” Li said, highlighting the fact that these studied applications have been downloaded by users 1.7 billion times in total.

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