2016 was the worst year of Katie’s life. Just after New Year’s Day, her 24-year-old son went missing. Seven weeks later, police recovered his body from the river that snakes through her town. For months, to get to work, Katie had to drive across the bridge near where his body was found. To grieve, she turned to prayer apps: first, the now-defunct Instapray, and then to Pray.com.
Thanks to Pray.com, Katie found solace in a community of what she calls “prayer warriors” — thousands of people who share their deepest fears and hopes in a public Facebookesque feed of prayers and prayer requests. Katie posted prayers for her son, for her former husband, who died by suicide in 2008, and for her youngest child, who struggles with addiction. (All app users’ names have been changed to protect their privacy.)
As Katie laid out her spiritual anguish, Pray.com was data mining it, matching her actions in the app to details about her that it purchased from data brokers.
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