Android Q will break clipboard manager apps

Just as it should, Google is always changing Android in order to harden it not just against hackers but also against unscrupulous app developers. You know, the ones that might not give a second thought about stealing your private data from under your noses. Sometimes, however, those changes entail removing privileges and access to features that some developers and users may have become accustomed to. In the upcoming Android Q, such another change will be coming and, this time, the ax will fall on apps read and manage items you copy to Android's clipboard.

The last disruptive privacy-related change Google introduce limited access to SMS and Call Logs for apps that weren't Messaging or Phone apps. This would have resulted in the likes of automation platform Tasker and even Titanium Backup losing important but not "core" functionality. Fortunately, Google decided to allow exceptions on a case-to-case basis.

For Android Q, the change will affect access to the platform's clipboard. The recently launched beta mentions that apps cannot access clipboard data unless it's the default input method editor (IME). In other words, only the current default keyboard can read from the clipboard and other apps running in the background can't.

This change is meant to prevent apps from copying, say, passwords or other sensitive data without user knowledge. However, it does also lock out legitimate apps that use clipboard data for other purposes, like passing them to a PC for seamless copying and pasting between devices. With Android Q, those apps would have to present themselves as keyboards, something that isn't entirely convenient for both users and developers.

One potential problem, however, is that the change seems to affect any app running under Android Q, whether that app targets the version of Android or not. This is contrary to what Google says and is hopefully just a bug. Even more hopefully, Google will find a way to satisfy privacy needs without blocking valid use cases.