Android 12 will notify users when apps access the clipboard, taking a page from Apple and iOS 14.
Google confirmed the new clipboard access pop-ups in a ‘What’s new in Android‘ talk at I/O 2021, noting that the feature would be available to try in Android 12 Beta 2. You can check out that section of the talk for yourself here (clipboard section starts at 23:00).
Based on the brief description in the keynote, it sounds like Android 12’s clipboard access will operate similarly to iOS 14. Apps will be able to query Android for the type of data stored in the clipboard first. This allows apps to check if clipboard content is relevant before accessing it. If the data is relevant, then the app can copy from the clipboard, which triggers a ‘toast’ notification that lets users know an app accessed the clipboard. The toast looks like this:
XDA Developers points out that the change is the latest in a series of clipboard protections Google implemented to improve protections of potentially sensitive information stored in the clipboard. For example, back in Android 10 Google added a system that restricted background apps from accessing the clipboard.
Although it may seem redundant to add a clipboard access pop-up when the only app able to access it is the one you’re currently using, the current system doesn’t tell you if the app you’re using did access the clipboard (excluding, of course, when you initiate a copy-paste action).
And if you’re not sure why knowing when apps access the clipboard is important, consider what happened when Apple added a clipboard access notification in iOS 14. Tons of apps were caught accessing the clipboard without user permission and often for no good reason. Since users can sometimes copy sensitive information to the clipboard — such as passwords, addresses or phone numbers — any app that accessed clipboard data could potentially obtain that information.
Ultimately, it’s good to see a similar feature arriving on Android. It builds on the already existing protections, and will hopefully help weed out any apps that sneakily access the clipboard.