By its very nature, a system-wide clipboard means that any app running on your iPhone or iPad should be able to access the information on it. However as researchers discovered earlier this year, there are a surprising number of apps that are doing this behind your back — scanning your clipboard to read what’s on it without your knowledge or consent.
While there are valid reasons for some apps to do this, such as looking for URLs that they can offer to save for you, they should in the very least let you know when they are doing this, and considering the amount of confidential information that is sometimes left laying around on your clipboard — especially with Apple’s continuity feature sharing your Mac, iPad, and iPhone clipboard across all of your devices — Apple has decided that it’s going to handle these notifications for you, whether the apps themselves like it or not.
In the current iOS 14 betas, you’ll get a prominent notification flashing up at the top of the screen each time an app reads your clipboard, whether you’re deliberately pasting information or it’s simply reading it on its own. The notification will also indicate where the information on the clipboard came from, and it will appear each and every time the app accesses your clipboard, which has led to some pretty big surprises as to how often popular apps are doing this.
Now, to be fear, just because apps are reading your clipboard doesn’t mean they’re spying on you, but Apple definitely feels that you should have a right to know about this. However, as things presently stand, the design feels a bit half-baked, since you get a notification even when you’re very deliberately pasting data into an app, which seems sort of redundant to us. We’d also like to see Apple include an actual privacy feature that could block this kind of clipboard reading access entirely in specific apps. Hopefully these are things that Apple will improve upon by the time iOS 14 is released in the fall.