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Prayer Apps Raise Privacy Concerns

One of the most well-known maxims of social media is this: if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. For more than a decade, big tech firms like Google and Facebook have made billions in revenue from offering free services that harvest user data and sell them to third-party marketers. This revenue model is common in a variety of free apps, from dating and rental search apps to music and television streaming.

Because in a truly free market, no subject matter is too sacred for venture capitalists or developers to exploit. Not even prayer. That’s according to a recent exposé from Buzzfeed, which claims that prayer apps like Instapray, UberPray and Pray.com are facing additional scrutiny over these same kinds of privacy issues.

Back in 2008 when venture capitalist Peter Thiel helped to launch Instapray, tech journalist Amy Keyishian was quoted as saying that “it’s next to impossible to monetize a prayer app.” Clearly, times have changed.

Instapray has since closed down, but several have since sprung up in its place. And in keeping with the data mining of big tech, these free apps attract users facing dire circumstances in life, and exploit their desire for connected prayer partners. This is done by using tracking tools that collect data that can be sold to marketers, even without acknowledging that such practices are going on.

As a Buzzfeed article stated, their “data practices are at odds with the deeply personal nature of prayer itself.” An op-ed for the Washington Post says these apps represent a “holy trinity” of “isolated people hungry for attachment, religions desperate for growth in an online world, and technology investors searching for the consumer niches yet to digitize.”

Perhaps those who seek to profit from prayer would do good to consider Jesus’ prophetic actions against money changers in the Temple. There might not yet be an app for that, but with God, all things are possible.

Possible Preaching Angle:

When unethical developers or hackers use people's prayers to harvest private information from users of prayer apps, they are no better than the money changers in the Temple. Jesus overturned those tables in order to reinforce the truth that no one should be exploited when trying to pray.

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