- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2020

A LinkedIn user has sued the social media network over purported snooping on users, including reading the content of clipboards after each keystroke on their Apple devices.

Clipboards hold information that users copy-and-paste and sometimes contain private information such as passwords and messages.

The lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California by a New York-based user also accuses LinkedIn of spying on users’ nearby computers and other devices.

LinkedIn attributed its reading of users’ clipboards to a technical error.

Information stored in users’ clipboards may contain data that is valuable to advertisers and marketing companies. Tech experts have long raised security concerns about the extent of Big Tech’s advertising technology and its capability to surreptitiously collect users’ hidden information.

It is far from the only application accused of spying on customers. More than 50 apps are suspected of similar behavior, including the China-based TikTok and the social media company Reddit.

“Indeed, information such as photos, text and email messages, voice recordings, and other communications, are expected to remain in the clipboard until the user herself issues a paste command or overwrites the information,” said the lawsuit against LinkedIn. “LinkedIn ignored that expectation and intentionally and repeatedly invaded user privacy — and it carefully hid what it was doing from users, knowing just how far beyond the boundaries of reasonable conduct it had gone.”

Neither LinkedIn nor Apple responded to requests for comment from The Washington Times.

Software engineer Don Morton was among the first to discover the snooping when testing Apple’s new operating system and witnessed LinkedIn logging the content of his clipboard after each keystroke, which he published to Twitter.

LinkedIn vice president of engineering Erran Berger tweeted to Mr. Morton that the clipboard spying was the result of a technical error, which Mr. Berger said was fixed in a new version of the app available July 4.

“We’ve traced this to a code path that only does an equality check between the clipboard contents and the currently typed content in a text box,” Mr. Berger tweeted. “We don’t store or transmit the clipboard contents.”

Two other prominent social media applications accused of similar trespasses on users’ information say they are attempting to rectify the situation.

TikTok said it was aware that iPhone users testing Apple’s new operating system saw notifications that TikTok was copying their clipboards while using other apps, and it said it has worked to fix the problem.

“For TikTok, this was triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior,” a TikTok spokesperson said. “We have already submitted an updated version of the app to the App Store removing the anti-spam feature to eliminate any potential confusion.”

Reddit told The Verge it discovered the problematic computer code and intended to release a fix Tuesday.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide