Google quietly reinstated ToTok, a messaging app accused of being a spying tool for the UAE government



  • In late December the New York Times published a report claiming that ToTok, a UAE-based messaging and voice call app, was a spying tool for the Emirati government.
  • Google and Apple both took the app down ahead of the report.
  • Now Google has quietly allowed the app back on its Play Store, although it remains absent from Apple’s App Store.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Google has let an app accused of allowing the United Arab Emirates government to spy on its citizens back on the Play Store after booting it off for two weeks.

ToTok is a popular messaging and voice call app that was downloaded millions of times before The New York Times dropped a bombshell report in late December. Unnamed American officials told the Times ToTok was a government tool for monitoring users.

Many messaging and voice call apps such as Skype and WhatsApp are restricted in the UAE, so the app billed itself as a good alternative for UAE citizens — who made up the majority of its users.

Both Google and Apple pulled the app ahead of the Times’ report, but now ToTok has reappeared on ToTok’s Play Store.

Google was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider, and a spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by The Verge.

ToTok denied the spying allegations, saying it has made user security and privacy a priority “since day one.”

But a recent Medium post by computer researcher Bill Marczak further solidified the likelihood that the app is a spying tool, as Marczak traced the various companies associated with ToTok back to Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who The Washington Post described as a “senior UAE intelligence official.”

It still remains absent from Apple’s App Store.

SEE ALSO: China’s Huawei endorsed an Emirati messaging app that reportedly tracked messages and photos sent by its millions of users

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