iOS 14’s new feature caught multiple apps reading clipboard contents without explicit permissions

June 26, 2020
iOS 14

Apple recently revealed the iOS 14 update for iPhone users. The new update brought several new features and changes but also added a feature that alerts users when an app tries to access the clipboard.

The new feature has now revealed that multiple apps including TikTok, AccuWeather, Overstock, AliExpress, Call of Duty Mobile, Patreon Microsoft Teams and Google News are reading clipboard contents without the permission of the user. The issue is not new as it was first brought to light by iPhone developers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk back in February. Soon after that TikTok told The Telegraph that it would stop reading the keystrokes and clipboard. However, the new software update has confirmed that the app is still accessing clipboard contents.

Apple is working on a way to let apps take advantage of the clipboard contents without the constant snooping. Some apps take advantage of the clipboard to read data to offer a better experience. However, not all apps need to read clipboard constantly and apps like TikTok and AccuWeather fall into that category.

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Other apps like HotelTonight and Ten Percent Happier and Bejeweled promised to stop reading the clipboard and have delivered on their promise as they don’t seem to trigger the notification on iOS 14.

A lot of developers will effectively be shamed into being more straightforward with their users or risk losing [them]. Already I can tell a lot of people are severely creeped out by apps doing this.

I’m very happy that Apple listened to the demands triggered by our research. Users should refrain from using apps that read the clipboard for no obvious reason, [and] developers must deliver updates that end unnecessary access to the clipboard.

– Tommy Mysk

Christian Selig, the creator of Reddit app called Apollo said he too would remove the feature as the notifications would “light a fire under a lot of developers”. However, apps like Plants vs Zombies and others are yet to deliver on their promise.

The issue is not restricted to iOS 14 as the Android counterparts of these apps too read clipboard contents. However, Android doesn’t inform users if an app has accessed the clipboard. App developers are yet to disclose if they plan to remove the feature from their own Android apps.

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