Small Number of SwiftKey Users Discover App Leaked Private Data to Strangers

A week after launching a new emoji-predicting keyboard, SwiftKey is now facing some pushback after a few users noticed that the main SwiftKey app was propagating suggestions related to the email accounts, phone numbers, and names of complete strangers (via The Telegraph). The Microsoft-owned app, available on iOS and Android, is widely known for its artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, which create custom word predictions based on what each user has previously typed.

In order to fully take advantage of these features, SwiftKey accesses various personal bits of information -- previous texts, emails, and regularly used names and phrases -- to bolster its database, with a synchronization feature that keeps all of a user's data updated across various devices. Now, one SwiftKey user has discovered that someone unknown to them was given access to this data thanks to the app's predictive features. Thankfully, the stranger was helpful in informing the compromised user about their privacy slip.

swiftkeythemes
"A few days ago, I received an email from a complete stranger asking if I had recently purchased and returned a particular model of mobile phone, adding that not one but two of my email addresses (one personal and one work address) were saved on the phone she had just bought as brand-new," said the user. "It also suggested, when she typed a zero, the telephone number for someone I had phoned recently."
According to the anonymous source, the stranger went through every letter in the alphabet and got predictive suggestions of the affected user's contact list and even the address of private servers used to connect to the internet at their workplace. A similar occurrence happened for one Redditor recently, but this time it crossed a language barrier as well, with German predictions of private information suggested for a user in the United Kingdom.

According to SwiftKey, the problem stems from a bug in that synchronization feature, so the company has deactivated syncing information across devices until it can get to the root of the problem. A spokesperson for the company said, "Recently, a limited number of our customers noticed unexpected words pre-populating when typing on their mobile phone," but promised users that the app is "okay to use" in the meantime given the low number of users affected and that their personal data will not be lost while the sync ability is down.



Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
38 months ago
This is one of the reasons I don't use third party keyboards. And probably the reason Apple restricts their use for password fields. But the main reason, even after two years, is because they still seem to be glitchy. The Google keyboard was handy, but I just know they're mining my data. No thanks!
Rating: 18 Votes
Avatar
38 months ago
If Apple would just add a swipe keyboard and make their predictions better, there would be much less reason for people to seek out the SwiftKey solution.

For example, I'm often typing out a town name called Sugar Hill. I've been doing this for years with the Apple keyboard. Even so, when I type in "Sugar" and then add a space, the predictions from the Apple keyboard are "and", "in", and "daddy". If I toggle the caps lock on to make it even more obvious that I want it to predict "Hill", the predictions simply change to "And", "In", and "Daddy". I don't think I've used the term "Sugar Daddy" a single time on any of my iOS devices.

In my experience, Apple's keyboard does not seem to learn based on what you type despite the fact that Apple says it does.
Rating: 5 Votes
Avatar
38 months ago
When alternate keyboards first came to the iphone I tried downloading them. First question is to give the app 100% access to my phone. Never thought that was needed or appropriate so I decided not to use these keyboards. Today we have an example of the potential danger of giving full access. This I am sure is a bug that will get fixed, but I am always leary of other apps that could be more malicious.
Rating: 3 Votes
Avatar
38 months ago

If Apple would just add a swipe keyboard and make their predictions better, there would be much less reason for people to seek out the SwiftKey solution.

For example, I'm often typing out a town name called Sugar Hill. I've been doing this for years with the Apple keyboard. Even so, when I type in "Sugar" and then add a space, the predictions from the Apple keyboard are "and", "in", and "daddy". If I toggle the caps lock on to make it even more obvious that I want it to predict "Hill", the predictions simply change to "And", "In", and "Daddy". I don't think I've used the term "Sugar Daddy" a single time on any of my iOS devices.

In my experience, Apple's keyboard does not seem to learn based on what you type despite the fact that Apple says it does.

This. 100% this. Apple should definitely add a swipe option to their keyboard. My wife and daughter both use Swype and, no hyperbole, they blaze so quickly across the keyboard. It looks like they are simply spreading finger grease on their screens. Somehow words magically appear. Their only complaints seem to be glitches caused by Apple's limitations. Apple could easily license the tech and make the stock keyboard better.
C'mon Apple listen to Teddy KGB in Rounders: "Pay him... pay that man his money."
Rating: 2 Votes
Avatar
38 months ago
Any third-party keyboard that wants internet access gets binned, plain and simple.

Is the implementation still as ****** as before on the latest iOS releases?

I haven't checked in a while, but I'd love to use something other than the awful stock keyboard again, I'm just not into crashes, the keyboard not showing or these sorts of shenanigans (well, I wouldn't grant online access anyways)

Glassed Silver:mac
Rating: 2 Votes
Avatar
38 months ago

I remember downloading Swiftkey when it was laughed way back then, and got rid off it when it wanted full access and the Apples warning dialogue showed up.

Edit - If I remember correctly either this or multiple other keyboard apps require full access to even work, yes?



Pretty much, or at least they "need" access for the features you'd want them for in the first place. Last I used them they were very little beyond a standard keyboard without it.
Rating: 1 Votes
Avatar
38 months ago

So can someone explain this further. How can swiftkey data of one user be transferred to another user by the initial user returning the device and the second user buying said device? That makes no sense. If that's true it would mean it's an iOS security issue with iCloud not being completely wiped from the device.


It sounds like the problem is that he forgot to delete that phone from his list of shared Swiftkey devices. (Or he did but it did not take.)

Thus when the next person bought the phone and installed Swiftkey, the device association was still active and continued to share his personal suggestions.

If so, one fix might be for Swiftkey to also match a user id along with the device id.
Rating: 1 Votes
Avatar
38 months ago

Yeah, and I'M the one who's making assumptions. /s

Get a clue C DM.

I'm out. The story is accurate, but this thread is full of misinformation. It's funny that out of many other sites reporting on this, none of the comments sections have even mentioned Full Access at all.

I was specifically talking about keyboards that NEED full access to function.

Never did I grant it, but when a keyboard wouldn't work without it, it got binned.
That's all.

Why? Not because a leak like this may occur, but because I don't know if I can trust the developer with my data.
All it takes is one screwed update or one nosey government agency.

Sorry, but for what I'm looking for in a keyboard it doesn't have to connect to jack all, so if it asks for more than I'm comfortable granting it's gone.

Glassed Silver:mac
Rating: 1 Votes
Avatar
38 months ago

That's my feeling with a lot of what they promise these days.

Siri is the same. Still as ****ing clueless about anything as on its first day.
Still never learned a thing from when I corrected words by hand, hoping it's a form of feedback that'll train her, because according to Apple Siri learns my speech on the fly.

It does **** all and the keyboard is pretty similar in that.

I hope they didn't invest a lot of time into these features, or they are just vapor features to begin with.

It doesn't take freaking mass data crunching to learn that when word B follows word A very frequently, maybe word B should get priority for word suggestions.

Glassed Silver:ios


Tell me about it, Siri is about a useless as tits on a bull. He/she rarely understands what I say and brings me everything but what I am asking for & need. The predictive & auto correct keyboard is just as bad. I type better and faster without it because when I am typing a word and click the space bar it changes the word I had right to something else. So I have to go back and change it back. It does that constantly so I am always loosing time having to reread everything I type and having to go back and change the words it got wrong. So I finally just quite using it as it was slowing me down. But I really wish they would perfect it as it does have promise and usefulness if they got things right.
Rating: 1 Votes
Avatar
38 months ago

This. 100% this. Apple should definitely add a swipe option to their keyboard. My wife and daughter both use Swype and, no hyperbole, they blaze so quickly across the keyboard. It looks like they are simply spreading finger grease on their screens. Somehow words magically appear. Their only complaints seem to be glitches caused by Apple's limitations. Apple could easily license the tech and make the stock keyboard better.
C'mon Apple listen to Teddy KGB in Rounders: "Pay him... pay that man his money."

While I agree with the whole swipe/glide option being overdue at this point, I have to say that that great Rounders line that is a favorite of mine is what really got me.
Rating: 1 Votes
[ Read All Comments ]