A New iOS 14 Privacy Feature Has Forced TikTok to Stop Reading User Clipboards

By Novak Bozovic / June 26, 2020

Among many new features of iOS 14, privacy-related enhancements are what sets apart this mobile operating system from the rest. More precisely, Apple is planning to introduce features that will make privacy much more transparent than before. Considering that the first developer preview of iOS 14 is already out, we're starting to learn and see how these new features work. And more precisely, we're getting to know about the apps logging your private information in a rather aggressive manner.

Back in March, we wrote about a problem with the iOS' clipboard (pasteboard). This is a system-wide feature present on both iOS and iPadOS, allowing apps to access data that you’ve copied (before pasting that data somewhere else). The problem with this system is that it’s completely open, allowing any app to read your clipboard data since there are no app-level restrictions. And now, it appears that TikTok was misusing this feature to keep track of anything you’ve pasted on your clipboard.

As discovered by Emojipedia’s Jeremy Burge, TikTok was caught reading user clipboards at all times. In other words, iOS 14 started to report about this behavior via a top-placed banner (as you can see in the video below). What’s interesting to note is that TikTok seemed to rather aggressively keep track of user clipboards, which in this case happened without users knowing what kind of data they gave to the app.

It's important to note that TikTok has acknowledged that it has clipboard access on iOS, which happened back in March. Despite promising to remove this functionality “within a few weeks,” it’s clear that ByteDance (the company behind TikTok) has decided to continue with this (mal)practice.

When contacted by The Telegraph upon this latest discovery, the company issued a statement saying that TikTok’s clipboard access was a “feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior.” However, no explanation was given on what kind of data was being collected and whether any of that data ended up on the company’s servers.

In the meantime, TikTok has submitted an update via the iOS App Store, which is already available for download. This update was specifically created to remove the app's access to your clipboard, so you should download it as soon as possible. This doesn't only apply to iOS 14 users, but to TikTok users on any version of Apple’s iOS.

Finally, we’d like to note that as per The Telegraph’s report, TikTok isn't the only app that continually checks your iOS clipboard. Among the most popular options, there are apps such as Google News, AccuWeather, Overstock, AliExpress, Call of Duty Mobile, and Patreon.

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