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  • Writer's pictureDetained in Dubai


The newly introduced messaging App, ToTok, created by the UAE and downloaded by millions of users worldwide is being used by the Emirates' government "to track every conversation, movement, relationship, appointment, sound and image of those who install it on their phones", according to a New York Times investigation.

"The UAE bans any messaging service they cannot monitor," says Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, "Cybercrime laws in the country make it possible to prosecute anyone for their online activity, including private conversations; so the risks of using any App that is directly monitored, recorded, and scrutinised by the authorities are extremely high.

"As we saw in the case of Laleh Shahravesh, it doesn't even matter if your online or messaging content is posted from outside the Emirates, you could still be charged and convicted in absentia if officials didn't like what you said; even if it is said in a private chat with a friend.

"We tend to have an expectation of privacy when we use messaging services, but clearly that is not the case with ToTok. We strongly recommend that users immediately uninstall the app if they have downloaded it. The Apple store has removed it from its site, and anyone who uses it does so at their own risk.

"The international community, and private individuals need to be aware that the UAE is not a democratic country, there no guaranteed rights, no due process, and it is an Authoritarian government in every respect. If you have been using ToTok, you could very likely be facing charges in the UAE for something you said to a friend already."

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