IOS 14 unveils more than 50 apps stealing user data

IOS 14 has introduced a new system for reporting apps that spy on user behavior. Here's what they are

Many users who have installed the iOS 14 beta release on their iPhones have discovered that TikTok and many other apps continue to spy on their behavior, accessing the Clipboard to read information written by other apps. Apple's new mobile operating system, in fact, sends notifications to users when an app has suspicious behavior.

In February, two software developers found a problem in iOS' copy-paste system that could leave sensitive information vulnerable. Tommy Mysk, one of the developers, told Digital Trends that as of iOS 14, the bug has been fixed with a new security feature in the form of a banner that informs users when an app is reading the iPhone's clipboard. The banner highlighted the privacy-unfriendly practices of several apps, such as AccuWeather, AliExpress, Call of Duty Mobile, Google News, Overstock, Patreon and TikTok. There are already about fifty apps "flagged" by iOS 14.

The copy-paste problem on iOS

As much as iOS may flag dozens of apps as "spying," the privacy problem is actually all in the operating system that allows apps to spy on the user. Apple assumes that when we copy information from an app, the next app we open will be the one we want to paste that information into. This is an Apple-centric approach, based on the substantial non-existence of multitasking on iOS, which results in the fact that any app in the foreground can access the clipboard. The problem, though, is if there's login data, personal information or other sensitive data in that clipboard.

The iOS 14 notification

Apple has responded to this problem in a questionable way in iOS 14: every time an app behaves in the way just described, a very annoying notification is shown at the top of the iPhone screen. That notification, which when we use some apps is practically continuous, should in theory prompt the user to take note of the fact that the reported app is unsafe. But, in reality, it's very unlikely that users will choose not to use the app: in fact, a user expects to be able to use an app safely, not to be notified if the app does something strange.