ToTok, the controversial chat app, is back on the Google Play Store. The search giant has made the app available for download once again. The service was briefly banned from the Play Store after reports emerged that it functioned as an espionage tool for the United Arab Emirates. The app is being pitched as a secure messaging service similar to Telegram, WhatsApp and others but available in many more regions. Soon after it was introduced last year, the app gained millions of users before being removed from the platform.
ToTok app reinstated on Play Store
The New York Times reported last month, citing classified American intelligence, that the service was being used as an espionage tool by the UAE. The app was used “to try to track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones,” the report mentioned. The report also claimed that the company behind the app “was most likely a front” for DarkMatter, which is an Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity and hacking company. In the past, DarkMatter has been linked to the UAE government.
The ToTok app was pulled from both Apple App Store and the Google Play Store before the publication of this report. However, it seems Google has silently reinstated the app on the Play Store. The Verge reports that a Google spokesperson declined to comment on why the app was reinstated. It is still not clear why the app was removed in the first place. There is a possibility that Google removed the app to examine the service. It might have reinstated it after finding no violation of Play Store terms.
“We take reports of security and privacy violations seriously,” the Google spokesperson said in a statement. “If we find behavior that violates our policies, we take action.”
Since the app was pulled down, ToTok has denied any wrongdoing on its part. The co-founder of the app even released a video to dismiss spying allegations. In a statement, the company said that it valued “openness, honesty and transparency”. The app does not seem to be back on the App Store just yet. The app developers note that it will be available soon on Apple’s platform. However, it is available via both Play Store as well as Huawei AppGallery.