Apple’s announcement of iOS 14 during its WWDC 2020 livestream introduced several new security and privacy features, one of which is a feature that displays a pop-up notification whenever a 3rd party app attempts to paste copied text on clipboard. Thanks to the feature, some users discovered that the social media app, TikTok, began setting off the feature at an alarming rate.
In the case of one user who is clearly using the beta version of iOS 14, he found that the TikTok app was consistently logging his content in an interval of a few seconds. To put it in another way, the app was constantly copying and pasting his messages on to the clipboard between an average of one to three keystrokes. The irony in this situation is had he not been using iOS 14 at the time, it’s clear that the app’s shadowy actions would not have been picked up by the current version of iOS.
Okay so TikTok is grabbing the contents of my clipboard every 1-3 keystrokes. iOS 14 is snitching on it with the new paste notification pic.twitter.com/OSXP43t5SZ
— Jeremy Burge (@jeremyburge) June 24, 2020
Surprisingly, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, has not been silent regarding the matter and has spoken up regarding its app’s actions. It says that the issue was brought about by a feature within the app that was designed to “identify repetitive, spammy behaviour” and that an updated version of the app has already been uploaded to the App Store.
Be that as it may, ByteDance’s use of the iOS’ clipboard to monitor spammy behaviour does raise some eyebrows; it stands to reason that there are other, more discreet – if not questionable – methods of monitoring unusual activity, and this just seems rather blatant. Further, the discovery does open up the question to whether the Android version of the app is designed the same way too.