Apple Pulls Emirati Chat App ‘ToTok’ From App Store for Allegedly Spying on Users

Apple has removed messaging app "ToTok" from the App Store after an investigation by the New York Times concluded that the app was actually a spying tool being used by the United Arab Emirates government to mass surveil its citizens.


According to the report, which cites U.S. officials familiar with a classified intelligence assessment, the app was being used to mine data from users' contact lists and track locations by offering a localized weather forecast.

ToTok's privacy policy notes that it "may share your personal data with group companies," but it turns out that the app is linked to Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity firm DarkMatter, which is under investigation by the FBI for possible cybercrimes. A U.S. intelligence assessment also linked ToTok to Pax AI, an Abu Dhabi-based data mining firm.

In the time that it was available on the ‌App Store‌ and the Google Play store, the app was downloaded by millions of users in the Middle East, North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The app was particularly popular in the UAE, where other messaging apps like WhatsApp and Skype are partially blocked. Users who installed the app on their devices are being advised to remove it, as any surveillance capacity could still potentially operate unhindered.

The UAE has reportedly been using surveillance technology to crack down on internal dissent in the country, including hacking Western journalists and holding human rights activists in solitary confinement over Facebook posts.

It's not the first time we've heard reports that apparently legitimate apps are being used as fronts for governments to spy on their citizens. An October report from the Open Technology Fund (OTF), an initiative funded by the U.S. government, revealed that an "educational" app teaching the Chinese Communist Party's policies includes code that amounts to a backdoor into users' Android devices.

A separate report elaborating on the findings said that the app, known as "Study Xi, Strong Nation," essentially gives the Chinese government the capacity to determine "the location of every citizen at any single point in time."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


This article, "Apple Pulls Emirati Chat App 'ToTok' From App Store for Allegedly Spying on Users" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Apple Watch Series 3 LTE Models Available to Pre-Order in Four New Countries From June 8

Apple has announced through its regional websites that Apple Watch Series 3 LTE models will be available to pre-order in Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates on Friday, June 8.


Brazilian customers hoping to pick up and Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE can expect to pay 3,119 reais (about $826) for the 38mm model and 3449 for the 42mm model. Claro will be the sole network provider.

In Mexico, the 38mm LTE model will cost 8,999 pesos (about $441), while the 42mm LTE model will cost 9699 pesos (about $475). Stainless steel variants start from 13,999 pesos (about $685). AT&T and Telcel will provide the cellular coverage (via El Universal).

Prices in South Korea start at 529,000 won (about $495) for 38mm models and rise up to 829,000 won (about $774) for 42mm stainless steel versions. The carrier will be LG Uplus.

Finally, prices in UAE will start at 1,364 dirham (about $371) and will be supported by the Etisalat network (via Gulf News). In-store availability for all three countries begins on June 15.

The moves reflect the continuing expansion of Apple's cellular smartwatch market reach around the globe. Last month, the company made LTE variants of its Apple Watch Series 3 available in Denmark, India, Sweden, and Taiwan.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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Apple Pay Coming Soon to Dubai’s Largest Bank in Middle East

Apple has updated its website to indicate that Emirates NBD, the largest bank in Dubai, will soon offer Apple Pay.


Emirates NBD has confirmed Apple Pay is coming soon in a recent email to customers, including MacRumors reader Hafez. ‏

Last month, Apple announced that Apple Pay will expand to Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the United Arab Emirates by the end of the year.

The new page on Apple's regional website for the United Arab Emirates now lists Apple Pay as "coming soon" in the country, suggesting a launch is imminent. The page has yet to go live in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.

Other participating banks in the United Arab Emirates will include Mashreq Bank, Emirates Islamic Bank, Rakbank, Standard Chartered, and HSBC.

MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards will be supported at launch.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
Tag: United Arab Emirates

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