Last week it was announced that the social media app Tiktok accessed the clipboard on the iPhone without asking. The clipboard is the memory that is saved when text is being copied or transferred from one app to another. Users noticed that Tiktok repeatedly called up the contents of the clipboard when writing in the app – for example in the chat window.
Tiktok has since removed the function
This approach only became visible through a new data protection function in iOS 14 Beta, which shows a small pop-up when an app accesses the clipboard. On request from TECHBOOK, a press spokeswoman for Tiktok explains the procedure as follows:
“After the release of the iOS14 beta on June 22, users received notifications while using a number of popular applications. At TikTok, this was triggered by a function that is intended to identify repeated spam behavior. We’ve already submitted an updated version of the app to the App Store that removed the anti-spam feature to remove any confusion. ”
The spokeswoman also said that Tiktok only used the clipboard to match a comment or message in real time with the contents of the clipboard. This would have served to identify duplicate comments and prevent spam. Regarding data protection, I was confirmed that the content of the clipboard was not saved or forwarded to the Tiktok server. The function would still be removed due to user concerns.
Other known apps are also affected
In March, security researchers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk identified 54 apps (including Tiktok) according to the IT specialist portal “Ars Technica”, which repeatedly and without access to the clipboard in iOS. These include well-known news apps such as NPR, Reuters and CNBC. Games like Bejeweled, PUBG Mobile and Fruit Ninja are also affected. Many of the apps have followed Tiktok and have already removed the function, such as ntv Nachrichten and DAZN.
When checking the apps from the list, TECHBOOK noticed that a few of them still read the clipboard. These include Sky Ticket, Accuweather and the Stern app. Google Chrome also continues to read the clipboard, even if there are legitimate reasons for this. Browsers use the readout of the clipboard to identify potential Internet links and open them immediately.
The fact that Apple now makes the machinations of apps even more visible with iOS 14 is a major step forward for the user. This makes it easier to control which data apps really access. Other operating systems still have a long way to go. According to Ars Technica, researcher Mysk explains that the interfaces in Android are much more lax when it comes to the clipboard. Until Android 10, apps were able to read the clipboard even when they weren’t open. In iOS and Android 10, apps can only access them if they are currently being actively used.