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A keyboard I recently installed on iOS 8 provides an option (in Settings) to "Allow Full Access"?

What does this setting do?

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"Allow Full Access" has nothing to do with using the actual keyboard. The keyboard is accessible for you to use throughout the system regardless of this setting. In short, allowing full access grants the developer of the keyboard additional access to some of your information and gives the developer access to the internet. From the technical specifications under "Designing for User Trust", Allow Full Access does this:

  • Keyboard can access Location Services and Address Book, with user permission
  • Keyboard can send keystrokes and other input events for server-side processing
  • Containing app can provide editing interface for keyboard’s custom autocorrect lexicon
  • Keyboard can employ iCloud to ensure settings and autocorrect lexicon are up to date on all devices
  • Keyboard can participate in Game Center and In-App Purchase

The second bullet point is what Apple really wants you to understand. With Allow Full Access a developer COULD send your keystrokes to their server for processing, which might include:

  1. analyzing your sentence for grammar
  2. analyzing a word for spelling
  3. predicting the word you are typing.

Apple is highlighting the fact that a developer COULD use your keystrokes for nefarious reasons instead of the legitimate reasons I listed above. It is possible for a developer to record your sensitive information such as credit card number or street address.

In my opinion, it is not possible for a developer to write a fully-fledged keyboard extension without requesting full access. Without Full Access I can't utilize In-App Purchases, I can't sync your preferences using iCloud, I cannot even provide a basic auto-correct feature.

I just finished developing a keyboard extension for iOS. My keyboard never sends your keystrokes across the internet. I will never see what you have typed. There are no privacy concerns in my opinion, yet you still receive a scary message from Apple when you turn on Allow Full Access. If you have concerns about turning Allow Full Access ON, ask the developer how they are using your data/keystrokes.

One additional note, you cannot use a custom keyboard to type into a password field. iOS will always use the system keyboard for password fields. Developers that do process your keystrokes will not have access to your passwords, unless you type your passwords into a non-password field.

  • Can I type passwords with custom keyboards? I see that whenever I start typing passwords, the keyboard switches to default one. This is annoying. If I have not allowed full access to keyboard, then why should Apple prevent it from typing in passwords? – Om Shankar May 15 '15 at 22:22
  • Last paragraph covers passwords. Giving developers access to usernames you type AND passwords you type is just begging for abuse. I agree that the switching is annoying but believe Apple made a good call. – Jon Jun 5 '15 at 18:24
  • Jon, how is that a good call? On all OSs, including Mac, Linux, Android, even Symbian, etc. - the same keyboard types in everything. Then why so much over-security on iOS. I haven't heard of any hack of stolen password or username on any Android OS. In fact, I have heard the Jennifer Lawrence iCloud hack from her phone - where some fan got an access to her password by hacking her iPhone. Is Apple review of apps on Appstore less powerful/thorough than what Google or Microsoft does? And then there is this special keyboard character hack that restarts/crashes your iPhone. – Om Shankar Jun 16 '15 at 19:41
  • @Jon If Full Access for a particular keyboard is enabled, does the keyboard only get access to the things I type when that keyboard is enabled, or does it include things typed on other keyboards? – mjs Jun 18 '16 at 20:16
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    @mjs A 3rd party keyboard only knows what you type when it is active. – Jon Jun 20 '16 at 13:22
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If you try it it will inform you of this:

Users can tap the keyboard name from here and check a box for "Allow Full Access." Doing so presents the user with another prompt that reads:

"Full access allows the developer of this keyboard to transmit anything you type, including things you have previously typed with this keyboard. This could include sensitive information such as your credit card number or street address."

If the user chooses to accept this prompt and allow the keyboard, it can now be accessed systemwide. When the virtual keyboard pops up, simply tap the globe icon in the bottom left corner to cycle through available keyboards, or hold down on the icon to pop up a list.

Source: http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/09/17/how-to-install-a-third-party-keyboard-on-an-iphone-or-ipad-running-ios-8

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    What does "it can now be accessed systemwide" mean in this context? – orome Sep 17 '14 at 23:56
  • Is that the next question? "systemwide access", it kind off explains it already. – Ruskes Sep 19 '14 at 2:01
  • I'm just wondering how it pertains to the question. What's "it" (the Keyboard?), that can't be accessed system wide if I don't allow? – orome Sep 28 '14 at 20:26
  • You also need full access to access the clipboard which is required by various messaging clients to sent assets. – Oliver Dixon May 9 at 14:14

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