Messaging app ToTok is reportedly a spying tool for the UAE2019-12-23 18:26 by Daniela
A popular messaging app billed as a secure way to chat with friends and family is actually a spying tool used by the United Arab Emirates to track the activities of those who download it, The New York Times reported Sunday. The app, known as ToTok, is capable of monitoring every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of its users. Most of the app's users are reportedly in the Emirates, but it has grown in popularity in the U.S., especially among teenagers.
Not to be confused with China's TikTok, ToTok markets itself as an easy and secure way to chat by video or text. One particularly strong selling points it touted among UAE users was, unlike more ubiquitous chat apps like Skype and Whatsapp, ToTok didn't require a VPN and could circumvent restrictions put in place by the Emirati government. Thus allowing (seemingly) no-strings-attached video chatting and messaging with anyone anywhere in the world so long as they also had an internet connection.
There appear to have been attempts to cover up ToTok's roots. It's officially developed by Breej Holding, but that's believed to be a front for DarkMatter, a cyberintelligence company run by UAE intelligence officials and former operatives from the NSA and Israeli military intelligence. The software is also linked to Pax AI, a data mining company linked to DarkMatter that operates from the same building as the UAE's signals intelligence agency - and a place DarkMatter called home until recently. The software itself is believed to be a lightly modified clone of a Chinese app, YeeCall.
Google removed the app last Thursday and Apple pulled it the following day. However, ToTok users, who already have the app on their phone, can carry on using it.
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