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Why Are iPhone Apps “Pasting From” Other Apps?

A banner saying Spotify pasted from Chrome on an iPhone

Your iPhone lets you copy data to your clipboard and paste it into other apps. However, an app can read (“paste”) from your clipboard in the background. A feature added in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 notifies you when an app reads your clipboard.

What is the iPhone Clipboard?

The clipboard is the temporary location where copied data—text, images, or anything else—is stored when you “Copy” it. For example, if you select some text on this web page and tap “Copy,” the text you selected will be copied to your clipboard.

If you switch to another app and then “Paste” your copied text, you’ll see a message that the app you’re using “pasted from Safari.” When your iPhone or iPad says an app pasted from another app, that means it pasted the contents of the clipboard. It can’t read just anything from the other app—only what’s been copied to the clipboard.

Copying text in a browser on iPhone

Apps Can Paste Without Your Permission

Here’s why this message was added: Apps can “paste” from the clipboard—in other words, access the contents of the clipboard—without you actually tapping a “Paste” button and giving explicit permission.

Note that apps can only paste when you’re using them actively—in other words, when they’re on screen. For example, let’s say you copy some text in Safari and switch to the Facebook app. While you’re using the Facebook app, it can read the text you copied from Safari. If you switch to the Twitter app and have Twitter open on your screen instead, the Facebook app can’t monitor your clipboard because you aren’t using it.

Prior to iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, there was no way to tell when an app was pasting in the background. With this message, you’ll now see a notification telling you when an app is reading the contents of your clipboard.

Why Pasting is a Privacy Concern

A "Chrome pasted from Safari" message on iPhone

If you’re copying private data to your clipboard, you probably aren’t aware that the apps you’re using can read from it. For example, if you copy a password or credit card number and switch to a social media app, that social media app could read the contents of your clipboard and upload your sensitive data to their server.

It doesn’t have to be that nefarious, either. Some ad networks used in apps may just monitor the clipboard to see what you’re pasting and use that information to target advertisements at you, for example.

The message tells you when apps are pasting so you can make an informed decision about what to do. If you use an app and you notice it’s often “pasting” for no reason, you might want to stop using that app—or, if you need the app but really don’t trust it, you could just be extra careful that you don’t have any sensitive data in your clipboard when you use the app.

App developers don’t want their users to be concerned about apps that mysteriously paste data in the background, so many apps that automatically pasted data are being updated to remove the automatic pastes.

For example, when the message was added in an early developer version of iOS 14, people noticed that TikTok was constantly reading the contents of the clipboard as people typed. TikTok claimed it never stored the data and released an update to stop reading the clipboard.

Can You Stop Apps From Pasting?

If you’re using an app that keeps pasting for no apparent reason, you might want to revoke its pasting permission. Unfortunately, as of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, there is no way to stop an app from pasting. You won’t find any options for this under Settings > Privacy.

If you want an app to stop pasting, all you can do is uninstall or stop using the offending app.

Can You Hide the Paste Banner?

You might want to get rid of the banner message that appears when you past something—after all, it pops up when you tap the “Paste” option yourself.

However, there’s no way to disable the paste notification and stop it from appearing—not as of the release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, anyway. When an app pastes data for any reason, you’ll see the message.

One good piece of news: iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 offer a new feature for apps that can reduce unintended pastes. Let’s say an app wants to automatically paste web addresses in your clipboard, but it doesn’t care about other data. Now, the app’s developer can update the app so that it asks the system “Is there a web address in the clipboard?” If there isn’t, the app doesn’t do anything and no messages appear. If there is, the app can paste the URL and you’ll see a paste notification.

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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