Apple has given the boot to a messaging app called ToTok. This app was reportedly an United Arab Emirates spy tool used for tracking users’ conversations and movement.
ToTok has been very successful in the UAE. The country limits access to other popular messaging apps including WhatsApp and Skype. The UAE also bans FaceTime from Apple devices sold in the region.
A New York Times report says that the app was being used to spy on citizens. It sent data to intelligence agencies in the UAE. This data included text conversations, user locations, and recordings of audio conversations.
ToTok launched earlier this month. An article for the Arab Emirates’ news website The National described it as, “the only free government-approved VoIP video app available in the UAE.” ToTok offered unlimited free calls, with zero advertising and no subscription.
ToTok gathered intelligence on its users
Security researcher Patrick Wardle told the newspaper that there is a, “beauty in this approach. You don’t need to hack people to spy on them if you can get people to willingly download this app to their phone. By uploading contacts, video chats, location, what more intelligence do you need?”
The FBI gave a statement for the NYT article. “[W]hile the FBI does not comment on specific apps, we always want to make sure to make users aware of the potential risks and vulnerabilities that these mechanisms can pose,” said a spokesperson.
In the past, people have accused Apple of making things difficult for apps which offer similar functionality to Apple products. But in this situation, it seems an unambiguous decision to ban an app which so clearly violates Apple’s own privacy position — and worse.
Google has also removed ToTok from the Google Play store.
Have you ever used ToTok? Let us know of any personal experiences in the comments below.
Source: New York Times