Video-sharing social network service TikTok was already popular before the lockdowns, and its userbase saw even more growth during the last three months, but developer ByteDance’s policies and alleged ties to the Chinese government have brought controversy. Now, it’s been revealed that the app has been reading the contents of iOS users’ clipboards, though it claims this was an anti-spam feature.
As the Telegraph notes, TikTok was one of several applications discovered to be reading users’ clipboards back in March. A couple of developers found popular applications such as AccuWeather, Overstock, AliExpress, Call of Duty Mobile, Patreon, and Google News were all snooping on both Android and iOS. ByteDance told Forbes this was related to the use of an outdated Google advertising SDK that was being replaced.
At the time, TikTok promised it would end the practice within a few weeks, but a new feature in iOS 14 showed the snooping hadn’t stopped. Apple’s latest operating system update doesn’t arrive until the fall, but those with early access got to see how it alerts users if an application is copying and pasting text from their clipboard.
Emojipedia’s Chief Emoji Officer, Jeremy Burge, revealed on Twitter that TikTok was still grabbing the contents of the clipboard every 1 to 3 keystrokes, as shown by iOS 14.
TikTok now says this is “triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior.” The company added that it has “already submitted an updated version of the app to the App Store removing the anti-spam feature to eliminate any potential confusion.”
While TikTok might no longer be reading clipboards on iOS, it’s unclear whether the “anti-spam filter” has been removed from the Android version of the app.
Back in February, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman called TikTok “spyware” and “fundamentally parasitic.” His words came soon after the TSA and US Navy banned the app over security concerns.