Apple has always boasted privacy and security in favour of its users. Nonetheless, the snoopers never miss a chance to intrude on iOS users’ privacy in one or another. Recently, researchers found some popular apps doing just that. As revealed, they identified around 53 different iOS apps, including TikTok, that spy on iPhone and iPad users by accessing their device clipboard.
TikTok, Other Apps Spy On iPhone iPads Clipboard
Researchers Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry have shared details about numerous apps spying on iPhone, iPad users.
Specifically, they identified 53 different apps exhibiting dubious behavior, including the popular video-sharing app TikTok.
The researchers found these apps frequently accessing device clipboard without users’ consent.
Briefly, every time these apps open on the device, they access the clipboard. However, these apps do not access all data on the pasteboard. Rather they are merely interested in reading the texts, ignoring any documents or images files.
Though, the researchers found numerous top-ranking Apple apps accessing clipboard every time they start and stop on the device. However, in their work, the researchers included all those apps that do this more frequently.
The clipboard data, especially the texts, may include various sensitive information about the users. For instance, this may include passwords, sensitive banking data, and other personal information such as messages, emails, and chats.
In short, every text that is ever copied would be available on the clipboard. Thus, these apps would access all that data without the user knowing.
The following video shows how TikTok accesses clipboard, comparing its activity with another app that doesn’t exhibit this behavior.
Various Apps Found With Dubious Behavior
In their study, the researchers identified various popular apps belonging to different niches exhibiting this suspicious behavior. Some of these include,
- Apps from popular news media such as ABC News, CNBC, Al Jazeera English, Fox News, The Economist, Reuters, and more.
- Social media apps like TikTok, Truecaller, Viber, Weibo, and more.
- Gaming apps such as Bejeweled, Block Puzzle, PUBG Mobile, and others.
- Miscellaneous others, such as AccuWeather, Bed Bath and Beyond, Hotels.com, and more.
A complete list of these apps is available in the researchers’ blog post.
Despite identifying numerous apps with this behavior, the researchers couldn’t detect what exactly these apps do with the accessed data.
For now, users of iOS 13.3 and higher may not do anything to stop these apps since iOS allows unrestricted access to the apps to clipboard.
Nonetheless, with the release of iOS 14, users can see themselves when apps access their clipboard.
The following video shows how this would work.
Besides, TikTok has also confirmed addressing this issue by removing the anti-spam feature that triggered it. Whereas, they assure that they never implemented anti-spam in Android version of the app. As per their statement quoted by ArsTechnica,
Following the beta release of iOS14 on June 22, users saw notifications while using a number of popular apps. For TikTok, this 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. We look forward to welcoming outside experts to our Transparency Center later this year.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.