Popular messaging app is reportedly a United Arab Emirates spying tool

Brendan Morrow

A popular chat app called ToTok is actually a spying tool used by the United Arab Emirates government, The New York Times reports.

ToTok is described as being a secure messaging app and has been downloaded millions of times on the Google and Apple stores, and it was even recently among the most popular social apps in the United States, although most users are located in the Emirates, the Times says. But it's reportedly "used by the government of the United Arab Emirates to try to track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound, and image of those who install it on their phones."

The firm behind the app, the Times reports, is "most likely a front company" associated with a cyberintelligence and hacking firm that's under FBI investigation. U.S. officials have reportedly informed some allies about the app.

"Instead of paying hackers to gain access to a target's phone ... ToTok gave the Emirati government a way to persuade millions of users to hand over their most personal information for free," the Times writes.

The app has now been removed by Google and Apple. ToTok cites "technical issues," but the Times' Nicole Perlroth writes it "was removed because of our story." Read the full report at The New York Times.

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