You are big brother

Amusing that outrage about popular MuslimPro app allegedly partnering with data firm allegedly selling data to US Military is being expressed on Facebook and Twitter, two open, non-anonymised social media platforms vastly more problematic from a privacy perspective. Cambridge Analytica anyone?

Go ahead, delete your favourite prayer time app, if you must. Take to determining the time of prayer by the progression of the light of the sky and reconnect at last with the source. Download a competitor app, created by Muslim developers this time, if you must. Just remember to read the privacy agreement this time, and hope and pray that they are truly GDPR compliant, and actually developed the app themselves, and are not just repackaging components from lucrative data mining companies miraculously offering free services just out of love and philanthropy.

But look. Think for a moment. Engage your brain — that organ you used to use before you had a smartphone, in which you used to store facts before your had Google Search at your fingertips.

I am not exactly sure what the data miners glean from the anonymous pings of non-logged-in users who have a prayer time app installed on their phone, except perhaps the approximate location of an anonymous Muslim who has asked to be alerted to the time of the prayer five times a day. I am sure there is a lot data analysts can do with this data, especially if it makes them richer.

I imagine that if a marketing company can tell Asda that there is a large concentration of practising Muslims in a particular town, they can decide whether it makes economic sense to stock halal meat and run a Ramadan marketing campaign this year. And yes, the willing intelligence agency could perhaps determine the frequency with which an anonymous user visited a sensitive location, intending to pray there. Not very significant if staying on the Norfolk Broads for a week, possibly significant if visiting Tora Bora again.

So significant, possibly, if you’re a little dodgy and have something to hide, and are doing something you really shouldn’t be doing. And worrying, certainly, if you care about privacy and freedom of movement, and the right to be forgotten, ignored, left to your own devices.

But I say, engage your brains, because there you are worrying about a smartphone app that shares not very interesting anonymous data about your prayer habits, while you’re revealing everything about your political views on some of the most surveilled platforms yet known to man.

If you’re active on Facebook and Twitter, petitioning on behalf of organisations like Cage, campaigning against Prevent, liking and sharing posts by men and women with unknown and special links to MI5, calling for boycotts of Israel, promoting conspiracy theories, castigating others as Uncle Toms, sharing lectures of men rightly or wrongly on government watchlists, still campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn, lamenting White Knights, joking about killing apostates, sharing articles from The Intercept, discussing the latest episode of Diriliş Ertuğrul — if you post and tweet day in, day out without relent, whether of the significant or the mundane, you are unwittingly providing the data analysts with a vast treasure trove of mineable information — and often they don’t even need the consent of the tech companies that provide the service. The whole of Twitter, a scattering of private accounts excluded, is available for anyone to access, using nothing more sophisticated than a web browser.

As for the privacy freaks, using the next great encrypted platform that everyone now uses to escape surveillance. Think for a moment: why on earth do you think it is free to download, free of ads, selling itself as a tool for activists. That’s right, folks: you’ve been had. If you want to make yourself known to the intelligence services, start using Tor today. I think this is what they call a honey trap. Who else remembers the very unsubtle adverts packaged as news stories on the BBC News when ISIS first came to our attention in 2014, more-or-less telling wannabe terrorists how to connect with each other? Okay, just me.

Personally, I shouldn’t worry very much about what your prayer times app does with the anonymous data it generates. I’d worry much more about your unceasing posts on social media, which tells those who are interested exactly who you follow, who you are friends with, what exercises you, what posts you like, what your political leanings are, where your sympathies lie, which scholars you listen to, which websites you read, what you look like, where you live, where you’ve been, who you dislike, who follows you, and on and on.

If you must have a Facebook account, then use it for watching mindless videos showcasing wood turning and epoxy resin projects. If you’re seriously worried about being surveilled, it is probably not a good idea to be friends with a bloke who described the chief executioner of the bogeymen of the decade as a rather lovely chap, prior to his stint as psychopathic lunatic — and to regularly give thumbs-up to his predictable rants on current affairs.

I must admit that I laughed out loud when my wife told me about a post on Facebook warning about the Muslim Pro app. The Facebook post went something like this:

“Brothers and sisters, there seems to be a drone in the prayer hall. If you can kindly shut off your Muslim Pro app. Thank you.” Serious infringement in our civil liberties calls for a serious response. The uncle toms in our communities need to realise at last what we up are against.

I particularly liked the touch of posting it globally, with location data attached. Good luck liking and sharing that one. I should imagine it has already been logged in the master database down in Upavon.

Idiots, the lot of them.

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