Some Christian worship apps are data mining information from users, matching users' actions in the app to details about them.
In a BuzzFeedNews.com article, a user named "Katie" said she lost her son in 2016 and later turned to prayer apps to help her with her grief.
She connected on the app Pray.com with people she called "prayer warriors," sharing about her late son, her late husband and her youngest son.
That information, Buzzfeed says, is supplemented with data from other third-parties. That information can include gender, age, religious affiliation, ethnicity, etc.
Spokesperson Pat Shortridge said that Pray.com "does not share users' public, private, or anonymous prayers and specific content consumption with third parties for commercial purposes."
Pray.com didn't respond to questions about what data it shares with companies like Facebook or how Facebook uses that information. Shortridge did, however, assert that the company "is not in the business of renting or selling data."
A privacy researcher, Zach Edwards, said he completed an audit of Pray.com and found that the app shares granular data about the content from its users with other companies. That means that those companies can use targeted ads.
The use is a standard policy among free apps, according to Buzzfeed, but many critics say they feel Pray.com's practices are in conflict with the intimacy of prayer.
"There is an expectation of privacy" among Christians sharing prayers, one user told Buzzfeed, who posted about the infidelity of a romantic partner in the app.
Religious and worship apps have jumped in popularity amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and as churches have adapted or closed their in-person services.
"A holy trinity is in place: isolated people hungry for attachment, religions desperate for growth in an online world, and technology investors searching for the consumer niches yet to digitize," said venture capitalist Katherine Boyle in a 2020 Washington Post op-ed.
Photo courtesy: William Hook/Unsplash
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.