TikTok under scrutiny again for accessing sensitive user data

Apple’s new iPhone update reveals that the Chinese video making app is snooping over users’ clipboard data

Popular Beijing-based video-sharing app, TikTok, has once again come under fire for data privacy as the recent release of Apple’s iOS 14 developer beta update revealed that the app might be snooping over data it had no need to access.

TikTok has continually been at the centre of controversies regarding data privacy and the recent revelation has only added to the mayhem. Reports have further explained that the Chinese app might have access to sensitive financial information, including Bitcoin addresses leading to alarm among users.

With more than 800 million active users worldwide, the video-sharing app has been accused of recalling data from iOS and iPadOS clipboards without the action being initiated by users.

These iOS apps can also recall data from the clipboard of other devices that are in the close proximity of the user and share an Apple ID with the user’s device, thus magnifying the risk posed by a potential data breach.

“It’s very, very dangerous,” Tommy Mysk, one of the researchers who worked on the privacy issue at ars Technica stated. “These apps are reading clipboards, and there’s no reason to do this. An app that doesn’t have a text field to enter text has no reason to read clipboard text,” he added.

Recently, a Reddit user who reverse-engineered the application to understand its data collection process explained that, “TikTok is a data collection service that is thinly-veiled as a social network. If there is an API to get information on you, your contacts, or your device, well, they’re using it.”

He further revealed that the app gathered data on other applications are installed on the device, including those previously deleted. It also collects network details, GPS data, and phone hardware data, the user claimed.

In a statement to the BBC, TikTok argued that the feature revealed by Apple’s new update was meant to reduce spam in the app and has been removed. “For TikTok, this was triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behaviour. We submitted an updated version of the app to the App Store removing the anti-spam feature to eliminate any potential confusion,” read the statement.

However, trouble seems to have only just begun for the company. India, TikTok’s largest market with over 120 million active users, banned the usage of the app in the country yesterday citing privacy issues. The video making app is also on the European Union’s radar, with its investigative unit forming a task force to examine the app’s activity

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