Apple has removed the messaging app “ToTok” form the App Store following a New York Times report that the app was spying on its users on behalf of the United Arab Emirates government. The app was a tool for conducting mass surveillance of the country’s citizens.
The report, citing U.S. officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment, the app would mine data from its users’ contact lists and track their locations by offering localized weather information.
During the time the app was available on the App Store and the Google Play Store the app was downloaded millions of times by users in the Middle East, North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The app was popular in the UAE, as the use of other messaging apps, including Skype and WhatsApp, are blocked there. Users who have installed the app on their devices are being advised to remove it.
The UAE is known to have been using surveillance technology to crack down on internal dissent on the country. Western journalists have been hacked, and the government is known to be holding human rights activists in solitary confinement over their Facebook posts.