The strange, unexplained journey of ToTok in Google Play fuels user suspicions

The strange, unexplained journey of ToTok in Google Play fuels user suspicions

Promotional image of smartphone app.

Enlarge (credit: ToTok.ai)

In late December, Google and Apple removed the ToTok social messaging app from their marketplaces after US intelligence officials told The New York Times it was a tool for surreptitious spying by the United Arab Emirates government. About a week later, Google reinstated the Android version of the app with no explanation, a move that confounded app users and security experts. Now Google has once again baffled industry watchers by once again banishing the app without saying why. (Apple, meanwhile, has continued to keep the iOS version of ToTok out of the App Store.)

(credit: @sooohaib)

Over the past few days, Play Protect, the Google service that scans Android devices for apps that violate the company’s terms of service, started displaying a warning that says: “This app tries to spy on your personal data, such as SMS messages, photos, audio recordings, or call history. Even if you have heard of this app or the app developer, this version of the app could harm your device.”

The message, displayed to the right, then gives the user the option to either “uninstall” or “keep app (unsafe).”

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Biz & IT – Ars Technica