Some of the biggest and most popular prayer apps routinely sell users’ data to third-party attribution vendors in order to hone religious consumer profiles and thus boost advertising efficacy, according to a new deep-dive courtesy of BuzzFeed News. Companies like Pray.com, Hallow, Bible Gateway, and Glorify all bury the disconcerting caveats within their tortuous Terms & Conditions fine print, which often goes ignored or overlooked by users who seek out these apps for incredibly personal reasons.
Can you guess which company continually resurfaces throughout the BuzzFeed News investigation as one of the corporations most interested in purchasing and utilizing that data? Yep, those sneaky devils over at Facebook probably have their tenterhooks latched onto your grandma’s prayer journal as we speak. That’s right, their tenterhooks!
Plausible deniability — Although a Pray.com spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the company “does not share users’ public, private, or anonymous prayers and specific content consumption with third parties for their commercial purposes,” they failed to confirm or deny that said prayers and content are used for Pray.com’s own commercial purposes.
And yet, a privacy researcher’s audit of the app revealed “granular data” shared with multiple other companies, including Facebook. This means that Pray.com users might hypothetically see ads on Facebook related to content they engaged with on their religious app. Facebook, for its part, claims to be “investigating the situation” now, for whatever that’s worth.
Not the only Big Tech investors — Facebook isn’t alone in its utilization of faith-derived consumer data: real-life Bond villain, Peter Thiel, as well as the venture capitalist behemoth firm Andreessen Horowitz are just a couple of the other players investing resources into these apps. It just reinforces that almost anything you say or do on public platforms like social media — as well as private spheres like prayer apps — can potentially be considered data “property” of large tech corporations. Because of this, they are often technically allowed to do what they will with it, including selling it to the highest bidders.