Google keeps flushing out thousands of malicious apps from the Play Store. Google had earlier removed an espionage tool called ToTok from the Play Store and Apple followed suit. But looks like the spying chat app was found back on the Store. Google notes that it’s been removed once again now.
ToTok is a chat app, not to be confused with the popular TikTok app. ToTok is used as a spying tool for the United Arab Emirates. It was first spotted by the New York Times, who said that the app “seemed like a popular chat app. It’s secretly a spy tool”. It appears that Google had quietly reinstated the app in January. ToTok remains unavailable on the App Store since the first takedown. A report from 9to5Google notes that the app was taken down earlier today (February 15). Google has refrained from explaining why the app was taken down the second time. An even bigger question is why did Google reinstate the app. The Android creator had removed ToTok from the Play Store for the first time because it violated unspecified policies. After reports of the spying chat app surfaced, Google had taken immediate action.
ToTok is a messaging app that was available on both the Play and the App Store. It promised “fast, free, and secure” messages and calls. It was downloaded by millions of citizens in the UAE and other regions in the Middle East. What’s interesting is that just before it was removed from the Play Store and the App Store in December last year, it was one of the most-downloaded social media apps in the US as well. The NYT investigative report revealed that the app was allowing the UAE government to spy on the users, including sensitive information and chat messages. At that time, ToTok denied the allegations and said that it not only does it “respect privacy and ensure security, our users also have the complete control over what data they want to share at their own discretion.”