A new privacy feature in iOS 14 has exposed a number of popular apps and raised concerns about clipboard privacy. In the video above, I explain why this is concerning, but not something to panic about.
One small feature in iOS 14 that Apple didn’t highlight on stage has been getting a lot of attention as users have begun testing the developer beta. Users on Twitter and YouTube have noticed that iOS 14 will tell you when an open app accesses your phone’s clipboard, and it turns out that a startling number of apps read your clipboard every time they’re launched.
Ars Technica has compiled a list of over 30 apps that access the clipboard when they’re launched. The most high-profile of these apps is TikTok, which one Twitter user realised was reading his clipboard every few keystrokes.
Okay so TikTok is grabbing the contents of my clipboard every 1-3 keystrokes. iOS 14 is snitching on it with the new paste notification pic.twitter.com/OSXP43t5SZ
— Jeremy Burge (@jeremyburge) June 24, 2020
TikTok told The Verge that this was an anti-spam feature and that they would be removing it with a future update.
While it’s concerning to see how many apps have unknowingly been accessing the clipboard, it’s important to remember that there are legitimate reasons for some apps to do so. Browser apps like Chrome search the clipboard for URLs. The UPS app searches the clipboard for tracking numbers. These are clear and transparent reasons for an app to access clipboard information.
But the security concern comes from apps that are accessing this information for unclear reasons. Why does the game PUBG need to read my clipboard every time it’s launched?
Here’s to hoping this iOS 14 feature will shame app developers into being more transparent about why they’re accessing the clipboard and what they’re doing with that information. But for now, the best thing you can do is just be careful not to copy sensitive information to the clipboard.