If an Android developer uses Google’s Accessibility Services or APIs, they’ll have to explain how they help users with disabilities or risk removal from the Play Store.
Google is letting developers know that the company is cracking down on how they employ its Accessibility Services and APIs in their apps. And if developers can’t prove that their apps actually use Accessibility Services for their intended purpose—to assist disabled users and help them have a better experience with an app—then they must remove these functions or risk being pulled off the Play Store entirely.
According to 9to5Google, the company has started sending out notices to developers to ask them about their use of Accessibility Services and APIs. For example:
“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,” Google’s message reads.
“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.”
Google’s reason for the crackdown likely stems from the simple fact that developers can use Accessibility Services to affect the behavior of other apps with their apps. For example, a password management app may use Accessibility Services so users can fill in text fields within another app with their login credentials. These same services can also help apps read information from other apps—creating potential security issues either way.
“Unfortunately, like their decision to remove system overlays on Oreo, this makes all too much sense when you consider that they’re doing this to get a tighter hold on the functionality that Android apps are allowed to have; preventing apps from stealing users data without their knowledge is a pretty important issue for them,” writes James Fenn, developer of the Android app Status.
“That said, I wish they would find another way to go about resolving this that didn’t involve the removal of hundreds of good, useful apps from the Play Store.”