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Google and Apple remove alleged UAE spy app ToTok – BBC News



Google and Apple have removed an Emirati messaging app called ToTok amid claims that it is used for state spying.

Not to be confused with China’s TikTok, ToTok markets itself as an easy and secure way to chat by video or text.

However, The New York Times (NYT) has reported allegations that the WhatsApp-lookalike is a spy tool for the United Arab Emirates government.

ToTok has told users that it will be back in the app stores soon.

In a blog, it wrote that it is “temporarily unavailable” on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store because of a “technical issue”.

Citing American officials as sources, the NYT reported that ToTok gives UAE spies access to citizen’s conversations, movements, and other personal information like photos.

Google removed the app last Thursday and Apple pulled it the following day. However, ToTok users, who already have the app on their phone, can carry on using it.

Millions of users

ToTok is only several months old but it has been downloaded by users in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America, according to the NYT.

Google Play Store showed that it had five million Android downloads alone before it was removed, while app-tracker App Annie said that ToTok was one of the most downloaded social apps in the US last week.

The NYT reports that the app’s publisher, Breej Holding Ltd, is affiliated with DarkMatter, which is an Abu Dhabi-based intelligence and hacking firm that is allegedly under investigation by the FBI for possible cyber-crimes.

DarkMatter employs Emirati intelligence officials, former National Security Agency employees and former Israeli military intelligence operatives, according to the NYT.

ToTok, DarkMatter, and the Embassy of United Arab Emirates in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“While the existing ToTok users continue to enjoy our service without interruption, we would like to inform our new users that we are well engaged with Google and Apple to address the issue,” ToTok said in a blog.

It pointed out that new users with Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo phones could still download ToTok on the phone maker’s own app stores.

The company promised to be back “in the near future” with new features such as payment, news, commerce, and entertainment.

Other messaging services like WhatsApp and Skype, which offer end-to-end encryption, are restricted in the UAE. While they can be used for messaging, they can’t be used for video calls.

ToTok’s privacy policy states that it may share people’s personal data with “law enforcement, officials, regulatory agencies and other lawful access requests”.

It also states: “We may share your personal data with group companies.”

However, there is no specific mention of the United Arab Emirates government.

Decrypting the app

Security firm Objective-See says that it worked with the NYT on the investigation.

In a blog, the company explained that it performed an analysis of ToTok’s iOS app on a “jailbroken” iPhone – ie one which had been altered to bypass manufacturer restrictions. Analysts decrypted the ToTok app and the app’s “network traffic”.

The analysts said that the legitimacy of the app is “really the genius of the whole mass surveillance operation”.

They noted that they found no backdoors, no malware, and no exploits in the app.

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European Union could force all smartphone manufacturers to use USB-C charging – MobileSyrup



Europe could soon require all smartphone manufacturers to use USB-C charging, according to a new EU Commission ruling proposal.

The commission says the proposal aims to reduce e-waste and the “consumer inconvenience” resulting from different chargers. The commission also mentions that it wants manufacturers to stop selling chargers alongside electronic devices to minimize e-waste further.

“With today’s proposal… USB-C will become the standard port for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles,” reads the report.

The report then says that it has reduced the number of mobile chargers in Europe from 30 to just three, with Apple’s proprietary Lightning port part of the smaller list. The report states that roughly 20 percent of devices sold in Europe feature the Lightning port, but that the EU wants to change this — possibly by forcing Apple to adopt USB-C.

EU executive vice president Margrethe Vestager made the following statement in the report:

“European consumers were frustrated long enough about incompatible chargers piling up in their drawers. We gave industry plenty of time to come up with their own solutions, now time is ripe for legislative action for a common charger. This is an important win for our consumers and environment and in line with our green and digital ambitions.”

As you may have already guessed, Apple has resisted the shift to USB-C in the past concerning the EU’s efforts. For example, last year, when the organization voted on the concept of a standard charger, Apple released a statement stating that adopting USB-C would “stifle innovation.”

In a statement to the BBC, Apple said, “We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world.”

With the release of the iPhone 12, Apple stopped including a charging brick in the box of its smartphones, citing environmental concerns related to materials and shipping costs. This move also likely saved the tech giant a lot of money. The company has also shifted to USB-C charging with several of its other devices, including Macs, most iPad models and its accompanying ecosystem of accessories. Some Android devices from companies like Samsung, for example, also no longer include chargers in their boxes.

It’s unclear if this law will go through, given it’s still in the proposal stages and must first be passed by lawmakers and several governments. However, it’s possible that in a few years, Apple could be forced to adopt USB-C for the iPhones it sells in Europe.

Source: European Union, BBC Via: Engadget

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Nintendo Switch Online will add N64 and Mega Drive games with a new subscription plan – Video Games Chronicle



Nintendo [2,050 articles]” href=””>Nintendo has announced that Nintendo 64 [151 articles]” href=””>Nintendo 64 and Mega Drive / Genesis games will be added to Nintendo Switch [1,941 articles]” href=””>Switch Online in late October.

A new membership tier called the Expansion Pack will be introduced that adds selections of games from each system.

Special controllers for each system will also be released at $49.99 / €49.99 / £39.99 each.

The Japanese Mega Drive controller will have six buttons, whereas the North American and European version will be the 3-button controller released alongside the console when it originally launched.

Nintendo Switch OLED Model Trailer

The full list of games at launch will be:

Nintendo 64

Nintendo Switch Online will add N64 and Mega Drive games with a new subscription plan

Mega Drive

Nintendo Switch Online will add N64 and Mega Drive games with a new subscription plan
Nintendo Switch Online will add N64 and Mega Drive games with a new subscription plan
Nintendo Switch Online will add N64 and Mega Drive games with a new subscription plan
Nintendo Switch Online will add N64 and Mega Drive games with a new subscription plan

Nintendo has also confirmed some of the Nintendo 64 games that will be added after launch, including:

There was no mention, however, of Game Boy and Game Boy Color games on Switch Online, which had been reported in the past few weeks.

Nintendo discussed expanding the Switch Online library with other platforms as far back as 2019, 12 months after it launched.

During a 2019 shareholder meeting, president Shuntaro Furukawa [145 articles]” href=””>Shuntaro Furukawa was asked specifically if the company had plans to re-release Nintendo 64 and Nintendo GameCube [174 articles]” href=””>GameCube software.

“At this place we cannot tell new information about future classic hardware among others, but we are thinking about providing an extension of the online service which is currently providing Famicom [NES] software, as well as other methods of providing them,” he said.

“We also recognise that there are opinions wanting to play past titles.”


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U.S. social audio app Clubhouse launches ‘wave’ feature for private chats



U.S. social audio app Clubhouse launched a feature on Thursday to let users virtually wave at friends inside its audio-only chat app to show they are open to a private chat, in a move to expand beyond public rooms that can have thousands of listeners.

Clubhouse, which pioneered the “social audio” feature that has since been copied by Facebook and Twitter, wants to enable users to have private chats, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Paul Davison told Reuters.

“A lot of people know us for bigger conversations, but the reason people stay so long is they’re finding their friends and meeting new people,” he said in an interview.

Users of Clubhouse, which is backed by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, can “wave” at friends online in the app and a private audio chat room will open when a person accepts the wave. The user can then invite more contacts into the private room, or choose to open the chat to the public, Clubhouse said.


(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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