Google has removed “ToTok” Again from PlayStore
Google has removed the chat app ToTok, which is apparently a spying tool for the United Arab Emirates, from the Play Store for a second time. The app was previously pulled from Apple Store and the Google Play Store in December, shortly before The New York Times published a report about it. Google quietly reinstated the app in January. The app appears to have remained unavailable on the App Store.
What is ToTok?
ToTok is a messaging app that promised “fast, free, and secure” messages and calls and was downloaded by millions in the UAE and elsewhere in the Middle East. Shortly before its removal from the Play Store and App Store in December, the app was one of the most-downloaded social apps in the US. But the NYT’s investigation found that the app allowed the UAE government to spy on users.
ToTok Denies :
ToTok denied the all these rumours in a statement published in December, saying that “We respect the privacy and also ensure security, our users also have the complete control over what data they want to share at their own discretion.”
New York Times states:
ToTok is the latest escalation of a digital arms race. It is billed as an easy and secure way to chat by video or text message with friends and family, even in a country that has restricted popular messaging services like WhatsApp and Skype.
But the service, ToTok, is actually a spying tool, according to American officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment and a New York Times investigation into the app and its developers. It is used by the government of the United Arab Emirates to try to track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones.
The governments are pursuing more effective and convenient methods to spy on foreign adversaries, criminal and terrorist networks, journalists and critics — efforts that have ensnared people all over the world in their surveillance nets.
A technical analysis and interviews with computer security experts showed that the firm behind ToTok, Breej Holding, is most likely a front company affiliated with DarkMatter, an Abu Dhabi-based cyberintelligence and hacking firm where Emirati intelligence officials, former National Security Agency employees and former Israeli military intelligence operatives work.
DarkMatter is under F.B.I. investigation, according to former employees and law enforcement officials, for possible cybercrimes. The American intelligence assessment and the technical analysis also linked ToTok to Pax AI, an Abu Dhabi-based data mining firm that appears to be tied to DarkMatter.