In a shocking report, it has been claimed that the popular messaging and calling app ToTok, which had recently risen to fame in the Middle East particularly, is nothing but U.A.E.’s spying tool. Speculations are ripe that officials at the U.A.E. are using and administering the app.
According to the report, whoever uses the app gives complete permission to the developers to keep a tab on themselves, unknowingly, of course. Those who install it are tracked by the app all the time. Whether it is their conversations, sound, image, movement, or relationships, contacts and appointments, every single thing is tapped, says the report.
The much-buzzed report has been formulated by the New York Times (NYT) investigations. In the report, the New York Times investigators and many resourceful American officials who are familiar with the matter claimed in the report. It was brought to light on Sunday.
That the American officials have chosen to nod to the findings of a classified intelligence, speaks volumes about the extent of findings in the report by NYT. As chance would have it, the popular calling app ToTok has been ousted from the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. So if you have it on your phone, you too are advised to uninstall it.
It is intriguing as well as shocking how the spying had an amazing colour of legitimacy attached to it. The said app allowed its users and people to converse freely and chat with friends and family. All of the joys and adventures of a popular app could be experienced without having to buy expensive packages of data.
“Our analysis showed that ToTok simply does what it claims to do… and really nothing more. You don’t need to hack people to spy on them if you can get people to download this app to their phone willingly. By uploading contacts, video chats, location, what more intelligence do you need?”Source
While millions of people have the app already installed, it must be a shock to the users to read such news about their favourite application. According to Google that removed the app from Playstore, the app violated unnamed policies. In this regard, Apple too joined the queue while explaining that it was still researching the chat client.
The app has been officially developed by a company named Breej Holding, based in U.A.E. But it has been argued that there have always been attempts at hiding the roots of the app and its developers. No doubt, the app operated within the confines of legitimacy, but again U.A.E. has earned some sufficient bad name for the surveillance of its people.
U.A.E.’s surveillance is so stiff that more often than not, the individual’s privacy is put at stake. The private communications can no longer be called “private” where everything is tracked. Even the company behind the app is supposed to be a front for DarkMatter.
DarkMatter is a cyber-intelligence company which is operated by U.A.E.’s intelligence department and governed by its officials. The cyber company includes many of the former operatives from the N.S.A. and even Israel’s military intelligence department. As such, it is well argued that the spying effort spans more than one country.
In a recent post by the app company, after the news regarding the report surfaced, ToTok resorted to defending itself. It spoke of how it had a loyal follower base with tens of millions of users using the services spread across hundreds of countries. Garnering thousands of positive reviews, the app claimed how reliable it has been.
ToTok claimed their services were coupled with high-security standards at all times. Addressing the removal from popular app stores, Google’s Play Store and Apple’s store, ToTok wrote in its blog post:
“Indeed, ToTok is temporarily unavailable in these two stores due to a technical issue. While the existing ToTok users continue to enjoy our service without interruption, we would like to inform our new users that we are well engaged with Google and Apple to address the issue.”
It further said that Android users could download the app from its website. ToTok also added that companies like Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo’s app stores still hosted its app and users could install from there.