ToTok – not to be confused with TikTok – has been removed by Google from its Play Store, for the second time in two months.
ToTok is a trending messaging app, which according to The New York Times, is being used by the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) intelligence agency to spy on its users.
The report also states the start-up behind the app, Breej Holding, is a front company for DarkMatter, an Abu Dhabi-based cyberintelligence and hacking firm.
ToTok was launched last year and has since been downloaded by millions of users from the Apple and Google Play Stores. After allegations first appeared, the app was removed from both distribution platforms. Two weeks later, an updated version of the app asking for permission to access and sync the device’s contact list, was back up in the Play Store. But now it was removed again by Google.
The first time it removed the app in December, Google said “We take reports of security and privacy violations seriously. If we find behavior that violates our policies, we take action.”
In response, ToTok founder Giac Ziani declared that his company doesn’t have links to any government, “not the UAE, the U.S., or China,” adding that “user privacy and data protection have always been our top priority.”
It’s not clear why the app was deleted again, but it’s safe to assume Play Store policy was somehow violated.