New York, December 23rd (Business Insider) – Google and Apple have booted a popular messaging app off their app storefronts after a New York Times report revealed it is suspected of being a spying tool deployed by the government of the United Arab Emirates. The app is called ToTok, and has been the subject of both a New York Times investigation and a classified intelligence assessment by US officials.
The Times’ own technical analysis suggested the app was used for mass surveillance. According to the Times ToTok is only a few months old, but in that time garnered millions of downloads across Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Last week ToTok shot up the app leaderboards in the US to become one of the most downloaded messaging apps, according to analytics site App Annie.
The majority of the users were in the UAE, where services like Skype and WhatsApp are prohibited. ToTok was also given a boost by Chinese smartphone giant Huawei, which endorsed the app. But the app is, according to the Times, used to monitor conversations, movements and even relationships of those who use it.
The Times found ToTok had close ties to an Abu Dhabi-based hacking company called DarkMatter, which is currently under investigation by the FBI according to the Times. After the Times contacted Google and Apple, both companies removed the app from their stores. Google said ToTok had violated its policies but was unclear on detail. Apple said it was still looking into the app.
Google and Apple were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider.