There is no doubt that authoritarians prefer some renowned messaging apps, but one app is reportedly designed with the purpose of illicit spying. In an interview held with the New York Times, anonymous US officials stated that the messaging app ToTok is supposed to be an espionage tool for the United Arab Emirates. Based on a confidential intelligence report, the UAE utilizes ToTok for illicit purposes such as to stalk users’ conversations, track locations (under the pretense of weather), monitor social media activities, and determine social connections. Over a million UAE citizens are using this app, but it is famous across the world including the U.S.
Several attempts have been reportedly conducted to conceal ToTok’s roots. It is believed that DarkMatter, a cyber intelligence firm operated by UAE intelligence officials and former staff from the Israeli military intelligence and NSA, is operating the ToTok developer Breej Holding. The chatting app is partially associated with a data mining company Pax AI, which is reportedly linked to DarkMatter. Moreover, the app resembles the Chinese messaging app, YeeCall. Neither of the UAE, Breej Holding, and the CIA released a statement over the allegations.
Both Google and Apple have ripped off ToTok from their respective application stores. Google stated the chatting app violated a few undisclosed policies, while Apple clarified that it was still investigating the chat client.
On a related note, a few months back Kik Interactive, a freeware IM smartphone app developer, shut down its main business segment, Kik Messenger. The company took this crucial step so that it could focus on its cryptocurrency Kin, which was launched in 2017. The U.S. SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) filed a lawsuit against Kik regarding its cryptocurrency business, as the ICO registered by the company was reportedly illegal. In addition, Kik Interactive was planning to layoff around 81 employees from its team of 100.