Google cracks down on power-user apps that use Android’s accessibility API

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Google is cracking down on apps that use Android’s accessibility API. Neutral though the APIs have been around for years without any class of rules about usage, Google has now started telling developers that spurning the accessibility API for anything other than helping users with disabilities commitment result in a ban from the Play Store.

As first reported by XDA Developers, a slues of app developers have received an e-mail from Google in regard to their accessibility app. According to the e-mail, Google’s new be in controls require that «Apps requesting accessibility services should lone be used to help users with disabilities use Android devices and apps.» The e-mail denotes that developers «must explain to users how your app is using the ‘android.franchise.BIND_ACCESSIBILITY_SERVICE’ to help users with disabilities use Android wills and apps.» Google says that if developers don’t comply with the new regulation within 30 days, their app will be removed from the Extemporize Store.

Google’s new policy will hurt a large swath of power-user apps. Android accessibility APIs are meant for alternate input devices and alternative output methods, but they are also a intense set of controls that have been co-opted by the Android tweaking community to surrender users more control over their devices. If you want to a postal card a powerful Android app and don’t want to modify your phone for root access, waiting into the accessibility API is the next best thing.

With the accessibility API, apps can access barrels of powerful commands that let them function a bit like a system-level app, and the proper, non-accessibility uses are almost endless. Through the API, an app can see all the other apps the narcotic addict is running and take an action when a specific app launches. This is outstanding for automation apps like Tasker, which allow users to set complicated «If, Then» statements that constantly run on the phone.

Accessibility apps can impede KeyEvents (hardware key presses), which is useful for doing something feel attracted to remapping the hardware Bixby key on Samsung devices. Accessibility apps can ponder over b reverse off other apps, which is useful for battery saving apps twin Greenify. LastPass used the API to create an Android password app before shibboleth apps were officially supported, which only happened in Android 8.0.

Google’s new practice of only allowing the accessibility API for accessibility purposes definitely seems to be new, as divers of these apps are years old and have existed in the Play Store without affair. Google’s own developer documentation still claims it is fine to use the Accessibility APIs for non-accessibility considers. For instance the «Building Accessibility Services» page suggests developers turn over a complete apps for users «who may temporarily be unable to fully interact with a stratagem.» The page even lists some non-accessibility examples for the accessibility API, adulate assisting «Users who are driving, taking care of a young child or attending a uncommonly loud party might need additional or alternative interface feedback.»

It’s understandable that Google would deficiency to put a lid on the accessibility APIs in Android, but they already require a good amount of implement from the user in order to enable. Android’s accessibility API requires idiosyncratic permissions that can’t be granted during runtime or requested programmatically by the app. Purchasers must manually go into the accessibility options and enable accessibility idiosyncrasies for the app, which requires tapping through a few warning pop ups.

Enabling this for a malicious app can, of positively, wreak a lot of havoc, which is probably Google’s inspiration for cracking down on the accessibility API. Google’s swift policy change seems like it will also reduce the functionality of myriad valuable apps and could outright kill others. Some developers are having to come up with workarounds, but, for the most part, nothing on Android be on a par withs with the accessibility APIs.

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