ToTok Removed From Apple and Google Stores Amid Claims It’s a Government Spying App

ToTok was released only months ago and has climbed the charts to become one of the most popular messaging apps in Britain, India, Saudi Arabia and Sweden, as well as becoming one of the most downloade...
ToTok Removed From Apple and Google Stores Amid Claims It’s a Government Spying App
Written by Matt Milano

ToTok was released only months ago and has climbed the charts to become one of the most popular messaging apps in Britain, India, Saudi Arabia and Sweden, as well as becoming one of the most downloaded social media apps in the U.S. last week.

According to a report by the New York Times, however, the app is actually a spying tool for the United Arab Emirates government, giving it the ability to “track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones.” The allegation is based on American officials who were aware of classified intelligence, as well as the NYT’s own investigation.

The app is distributed by a company called Breej Holding. However, investigation indicates the firm is likely a front company associated with DarkMatter, a cyberintelligence and hacking firm located in Abu Dhabi. DarkMatter is staffed with individuals who previously worked for the NSA, Israeli intelligence and Emirate intelligence, and is under FBI investigation for possible cyber crimes.

In the wake of these revelations, both Apple and Google have removed the app from their respective stores. ToTok released a post to their user community to address the allegations, but stopped short of denying them outright. In fact, their privacy policy expressly says they may share data with “group companies,” as well as “to comply with a legal obligation to which we are subject.” Either of those clauses come into play if the allegations are correct and the app is actually backed by the government.

As the NYT comments, this is a significant “escalation in a digital arms race among wealthy authoritarian governments.” Whereas many governments have banned apps like WhatsApp and Signal, since they employ end-to-end encryption, the UAE took it a step further by lulling their citizens into a false sense of security with an app deliberately designed to spy on them and anyone else using it.

Get the WebProNews newsletter delivered to your inbox

Get the free daily newsletter read by decision makers

Subscribe
Advertise with Us

Ready to get started?

Get our media kit