X-Mode works by giving developers code to put into their apps, known as an SDK, which tracks users’ location and then sends that data to X-Mode, which sells it. In return, X-Mode pays the developer a certain amount based on how many users the app has. According to the company, its technology is in over 400 apps, including many apps designed for Muslim users, such as one that reminds users when to pray, and a Muslim-focused dating app.
Apple is giving developers two weeks to remove the SDK, and Google is giving devs one week, with the ability to apply for an extension to 30 days. But the model of tracking users’ locations and selling the data is nothing new: what may have gotten X-Mode banned was that, according to a report by Motherboard, it was also selling it to the US military. When you consider the fact that many of the largest apps using the X-Mode were designed for Muslim populations, it’s understandable why this would be concerning.
Without a better policy from Apple and Google on how apps are allowed to collect, use, and sell user data like location and browsing history, this is going to quickly become an unwinnable game of whack-a-mole. A privacy nutrition label isn’t going to solve this.