India bans TikTok: How Apple caught Chinese App 'secretly spying' on millions of iPhone users
Photo by 9to5Mac

Chinese short-video making app TikTok has announced it would no longer automatically access user clipboards on Apple iPhones after iOS 14 in Beta has exposed apps constantly reading user clipboards.

TikTok told The Telegraph that it would stop "snooping on users' clipboards after iPhone update shows app constantly reads copied text".

"A security patch from Apple has suddenly exposed just how many smartphone apps are reading users' clipboards every time they are on screen," said the report.

In iOS 14 Beta, one of these features is a new banner alert that lets users know if an app is pasting from the clipboard.

This has exposed the behaviour of some popular apps like TikTok as annoyed users who upgraded to iOS 14 Beta went on social media with such complaints.

"For TikTok, this was triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behaviour. 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 Chinese company said in a statement.

According to the report, other apps that read the iOS clipboard include AccuWeather, Call of Duty Mobile and even Google News.

iOS 14 is limited to developers now and the company plans to release a public beta version next month ahead of the launch later this year.

In iOS 14, all apps will now be required to obtain user permission before tracking.

Later this year, App Store product pages will feature summaries of developers' self-reported privacy practices, displayed in a simple, easy-to-understand format.

The Indian government on Monday banned apps like TikTok, WeChat, UC Browser and Xiaomi's Mi Community over national security concerns as India-China bilateral relations remain strained after the death of 20 Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley clash with Chinese PLA troops in eastern Ladakh.

"The government of India has issued an interim order for the blocking of 59 apps, including TikTok and we are in the process of complying with it," Nikhil Gandhi, Head of TikTok India, said in a statement, adding that the company has been invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications.

"TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and have not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese Government," Gandhi explained.

The app disappeared from both Google Play Store and Apple App Store on Tuesday. There was no official communication from Google or Apple on its removal from their respective stores.

ByteDance-owned TikTok said that it places the highest importance on user privacy and integrity.

"TikTok has democratized the internet by making it available in 14 Indian languages, with hundreds of millions of users, artists, story-tellers, educators and performers depending on it for their livelihood, many of whom are first-time internet users," said Gandhi.

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