TikTok has said that it will stop its app from constantly copying the data from iOS users’ clipboards after the new iOS 14 beta exposed that it was doing so.
The Telegraph reported that thanks to a new pop up in iOS 14 that sends a banner alert when an app is reading the clipboard, TikTok’s app has been exposed as doing this covertly until now.
People running the new developer beta of iOS 14 took to Twitter to show how the TikTok app is accessing the iPhone’s clipboard practically every second when you’re typing. This has worrying privacy implications, particularly considering TikTok told the Telegraph it was planning to fix the issue back in March when it was first reported.
Reports also claim the iOS 14 beta has exposed other popular apps accessing phones’ clipboards, including AccuWeather, Call of Duty, Patreon and Google News.
Hey @tiktok_us, why do you paste from my clipboard every time I type a LETTER in your comment box? Shout out to iOS 14 for shining a light on this HUGE invasion of privacy. inb4 they say it was a “bug” pic.twitter.com/MHv10PmzZS— Maxel (@MaxelAmador) June 25, 2020
TikTok responded to the alarming news by saying: “his was triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior. We have already submitted an updated version of the app to the App Store removing the anti-spam feature to eliminate any potential confusion.
“TikTok is committed to protecting users’ privacy and being transparent about how our app works.”
The Telegraph notes that TikTok has not addressed whether this continues to be an issue on the Android version of its app.
For TikTok to be reading this data that often begs the question of whether it is reading, storing, or selling that data on in an unethical manner. Given clipboard data, where what you’ve copied to paste is stored, is not included in the data sharing agreements when you sign up to such apps, it should not be being read.
Overall it’s positive that Apple’s new feature has exposed the behaviour of TikTok and others, but it’s worrying to think that this has ben going on for months on iPhones across the world.