Google To Discard Apps That Use Accessibility Services Not Designed For Users With Disabilities

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Nov 13
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In a bid to help users with disabilities, Google has decided to nix apps that use Accessibility Services that are not designed for the users with disabilities. Android has various Accessibility Services that can be used by the developers to improve their apps, but some apps like the LastPass have been using these services for creating a unique overlay on the UI and also control other apps.

What are Accessibility Services?

While developers try their best to make the app usable for the users with disabilities but Accessibility Services on Android help developers to make their apps friendlier and more usable for the users with disabilities.

screen-shot-2017-11-17-at-3-12-38-amRelatedGoogle’s Crackdown On Accessibility Services Won’t Affect LastPass & 1Password

Google is now making its guidelines stricter for apps to use Accessibility Services for imposing their own unique elements. Developers will now be required to describe how their app uses the Accessibility Services to assist users with disabilities. If developers fail to explain the functionality, then Google will remove all requests for Accessibility Services or remove the app from the Play Store.

As reported by the Android Police, Google will be cracking down on Accessibility Services for security reasons too. While apps like LastPass use the available APIs to identify password fields in other apps and assist users, but this functionality or access can also be misused.

Here’s the email that Google has been pushing to developers who use any of Android’s Accessibility Services. This email has been sent to the developer of BatterySaver app:

We’re contacting you because your app, BatterySaver System Shortcut, with package name com.floriandraschbacher.batterysaver.free is requesting the ‘android.permission.BIND_ACCESSIBILITY_SERVICE.’ Apps requesting accessibility services should only be used to help users with disabilities use Android devices and apps. Your app must comply with our Permissions policy and the Prominent Disclosure requirements of our User Data policy.

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Action required: If you aren’t already doing so, you must explain to users how your app is using the ‘android.permission.BIND_ACCESSIBILITY_SERVICE’ to help users with disabilities use Android devices and apps. Apps that fail to meet this requirement within 30 days may be removed from Google Play. Alternatively, you can remove any requests for accessibility services within your app. You can also choose to unpublish your app.

[…]

Alternatively, you can choose to unpublish the app.All violations are tracked. Serious or repeated violations of any nature will result in the termination of your developer account, and investigation and possible termination of related Google accounts.

If you’ve reviewed the policy and feel we may have been in error, please reach out to our policy support team. One of my colleagues will get back to you within 2 business days.

Regards,

The Google Play Review Team

This move will impact some of the apps in the Play Store. Developers have been granted with 30 days of grace period to explain their usage of the said API.

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