Amid spy rumours, Google removes ToTok App from PlayStore, Apple’s app store

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Published: February 17, 2020 4:14:39 PM

There have been claims that the popular application was used by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government for mass surveillance.

However, the company had earlier denied the rumours in a statement and said that the company respects the privacy of users and ensures security as well. (Website image)However, the company had earlier denied the rumours in a statement and said that the company respects the privacy of users and ensures security as well. (Website image)

As the rumours of spying prevailed, Google has removed messaging application ToTok from Google’s PlayStore and Apple’s app store. There have been claims that the popular application was used by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government for mass surveillance. There have been similar claims previously as well and the company had removed it in December also. The application was allegedly used to maintain a track record of every conversation, appointment, movement, images and sounds of everyone who had installed it in their phone, according to a report by 9to5Google which cited some US officials familiar with the case.

NYT investigation in December 2019 has revealed that the application was also known as Breej Holding, a firm which was affiliated with Abu-Dhabi based hacking and cyber intelligence firm, DarkMatter. However, the company had earlier denied the rumours in a statement and said that the company respects the privacy of users and ensures security as well. The users were expected to share data on their own discretion and only the users had complete control on it, the company added. Meanwhile, DarkMatter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The NYT report had also stated the government has pursued this as a more convenient and effective way to spy on foreign adversaries, journalists, critics and criminal and terrorist networks. Earlier, the probe also linked ToTok to Pax Al. Pax Al is a data-mining firm in Abu Dhabi and linked to Dark Matter.

After the introduction of ToTok, the application was downloaded by many across Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia and North America. While the majority of users are from Emirates, ToTok became the most downloaded Social app in the US, said App ranking firm, App Annie.

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