ToTok removed from app stores amid NY Times report labeling it a UAE spy tool

ToTok removed from app stores amid NY Times report labeling it a UAE spy tool
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Apple and Google have reportedly both removed the messaging app ToTok from their online stores after The New York Times reported that it is a spy tool used by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government. 

Google removed the app from its store on Thursday and Apple removed it Friday, according to the Times. An Apple spokesman told the newspaper that the company was still researching the app.

People who have already downloaded ToTok can reportedly still use it until they decide to remove it. 

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"We take reports of security and privacy violations seriously," a Google spokesperson told The Hill in an email. "If we find behavior that violates our policies, we take action."

The spokesperson also confirmed the app's Thursday removal from Google's store. 

ToTok said Monday in a statement on its website that the app is "temporarily" not available on the Google Play or Apple App stores because of "a technical issue."

"We are well engaged with Google and Apple to address the issue," the statement said, also noting that ToTok has a "privacy framework that complies with the local and international legal requirements."

The Times reported Sunday the UAE government uses the app in an attempt to track users' conversations, movement, relationships, appointments and images. 

It has reportedly been downloaded millions of times. The newspaper reported that while most of the app's users are in the UAE, it also has users in other parts of the Middle East as well as Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.

-- Updated at 12:24 p.m.