Tech giant Google has removed the famous chat app ToTok from the Play Store. This is the second time when ToTok has been taken down from the platform. Earlier in December 2019, the app was pushed out from Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store. The app was removed following reports that it was a spying tool for the United Arab Emirates regime. The app was reinstated quietly a month later in January by Google. However, the app appears to have remained unavailable on the App Store. Google has confirmed that it took down the app for the second time. The company didn’t provide any further explanation behind its decision.
In December last year, Google said it removed ToTok from Play Store as it was violating its policies. The app is quite famous in the Middle East. It promises fast, free, and secure messages and calls. Alone in the UAE, it was downloaded by millions. When the app was removed from the Play Store and App Store, it was one of the most-downloaded apps in the United States. The app reportedly helped the UAE regime to spy on users. The app gained popularity especially in the Middle East because there are not many alternatives available. The gulf nation has strict rules for other chatting apps. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Skype are not allowed to offer full services in the UAE due to their offer end-to-end encryption feature.
ToTok users in the UAE mainly used ToTok to make or receive video calls. WhatsApp and Skype are restricted from offering video calling to UAE users. These apps can be used for sending and receiving messages only. ToTok is so popular in the region that it was listed at the 50th position in the social networking category on Apple’s App Store. The app was reportedly tracking citizens’ conversation and movements and sharing data with the UAE government. ToTok is run by Breej Holding. It is a front for Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity firm DarkMatter. It has also links with data-mining firm Pax AI. The company is based in Abu Dhabi. Earlier, it was reported that the company shares offices with the Emirates’ signals intelligence agency.