Tech

Tons of news apps caught unnecessarily snooping on iPhone clipboard

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, HuffPost, and scores of other apps may have accessed your passwords and other copy and pasted data.

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It turns out TikTok isn't the only app that's snooping through your iPhone's clipboard (that's everything you copy and paste). ArsTechnica has discovered over 50 other iOS apps that also unnecessarily read an iOS user's clipboard, which could include passwords and other private data such as two-factor authentication codes, cryptocurrency wallet addresses, and more.

Bad news — News apps are among the many that are excessively accessing clipboards without letting users know. ArsTechnica names apps from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, HuffPost, and more. None of them have reportedly updated their apps (yet) to reduce or remove the amount of clipboard access.

Other news apps caught red-handed: ABC News, Al Jazeera English, CBC News, CBS News, CNBC, Fox News, News Break, NPR, ntv Nachrichten, Reuters, Russia Today, Stern Nachrichten, The Economist, and Vice News.

Think about all the information you copy and paste on your iPhone and you could imagine what would happen if that data fell into someone else's hands.

Beyond news — While news apps are the most concerning, there are a ton of other apps that also over-access iOS's clipboard. A few popular games include 8 Ball Pool, Classic Bejeweled, Fruit Ninja, Plants vs. Zombies Heroes, PUBG Mobile, and more.

Social apps like Viber, Weibo, and Zoosk are also included. Bottom line: it's not looking good. Christian Selig, the developer of Apollo, a Reddit app for iOS, told The Telegraph he'd also remove the creepy feature.

And these are only the apps that we know of so far. As iOS 14 blows the whistle on more apps snooping in the background, we're sure more apps will be added to the list.

No good excuse — TikTok was caught by researchers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk in February for its egregious clipboard access. ByteDance, the developer behind TikTok, didn't take steps to correct the excessive data access until Emojipedia creator Jeremy Burge and several other users noticed iOS 14's new paste notification feature alerted him that the app was "grabbing the contents of my clipboard every 1-3 keystrokes."

TikTok said the app was constantly reading users' clipboards as a way to combat spam. "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."

The "anti-spam" explanation is pretty fluffy. How was the app preventing spam with the clipboard access? TikTok hasn't expounded on its statement and users aren't buying the reason.

Stop using their apps — Until these news apps stop accessing the clipboard so often, it may be a better idea to simply go to their websites. There are other kinds of web tracking to potentially block, but at least in a browser, news sites don't have access to your copy and paste data.