Privacy: iPhone apps too fond of the clipboard?


iOS 14 reports apps that access the clipboard. The behavior of some in this matter raised questions … and caused reactions.

LinkedIn, Reddit, TikTok… So many mobile applications whose respective publishers have apologized in recent days. At issue, a practice that the iOS 14 beta has highlighted: frequent access – and not necessarily essential – to the clipboard on iPhone and iPad.

Difficult to miss this highlight: each time you access an open application, a banner is displayed at the top of the screen.

Developers already had launched an alert at the start of the year *, before this system is put in place. They had insisted on the “non-exhaustive” nature of their list, which included around fifty applications. Mainly media (including Reuters), video games (eg PUBG Mobile) and social networks.

In the latter category, there were notably Viber… and TikTok. Its publisher, the Beijing-based company ByteDance, then promised that it would remedy the problem.

To each his motive

At the end of June, it appeared that the promise had not been kept. Several users have testified to this in recent days: the app accesses the clipboard almost at every keystroke.

It seems that the practice has finally stopped. TikTok is no longer in the aforementioned list, updated on June 30, 2020. ByteDance has effectively submitted to the App Store a corrected version “ of the application. Not without to affirm that access to the clipboard was linked to a antispam functionality.

As a witness to the “non-exhaustive” nature of the list here taken as a reference, LinkedIn is absent, even though it is also concerned. “ We do not store or transmit the contents of the clipboard “Explained the social network through its vice president of engineering. His explanations remain unclear, however.

The so-called problematic code seems related to the functionality of automatic text completion. He disappeared in the latest version of the LinkedIn app, submitted this weekend on the App Store.

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Reddit has made similar guarantees regarding the use of the contents of the clipboard. And promised a fix for mid-July. The problem would lie in the post composer, which checks the URLs for suggest titles.

* They also noted that the applications did not consult other elements than the text. And that some only accessed it in response to very specific events, such as the creation of a user account. Here we fall into legitimate uses, to which many applications also stand.

Illustration principale © Apple

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