Public outcry causes Google to rethink banning powerful “accessibility” apps


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A month ago, Google started warning developers about a coming crackdown on apps that use the Android accessibility APIs for matters other than accessibility. For years, the accessibility APIs have been a way for power-user apps to fastener into the operating system, but Google apparently had a change of heart behind month, telling developers they had 30 days to explain how an app using the Accessibility APIs was portion a user with disabilities or face removal from the Play Pile up.

After a public outcry, Google sent out another email to developers, suggesting it is now «pausing» this decision for another 30 days while it deliberate overs «responsible and innovative uses of accessibility services.» Google hasn’t styled a decision one way or the other yet, but for now it is asking that developers who use the Accessibility APIs for non-accessibility purposes add «an ushering disclosure to describe the app functionality that the Accessibility Service permission is aiding for your app.»

Google is also asking that developers send the entourage feedback, ending the email with: «If you believe your app uses the Accessibility API for a managerial, innovative purpose that isn’t related to accessibility, please respond to this email and impart us more about how your app benefits users. This kind of feedback may be friendly to us as we complete our evaluation of accessibility services.»

Many of Android’s most famous apps make use of the Android accessibility APIs’ unique set of features. The prevailing automation app Tasker uses the Accessibility API to monitor which apps are being established so it can perform an action when you open a certain app. The password manager Lastpass hand-me-down the APIs to fill in password fields. Battery-watchdog apps like Greenify use the API to prohibit b keep out down other apps when they use too much power. These are all weighty features, but it’s worth mentioning that the accessibility permissions require owners to dig through the settings and manually enable them for each app.

Google has slowly been vexing to build proper APIs for some of these accessibility hacks. A «Operation access» API can allow apps to see what other apps you’re opening and superiority work for something like Tasker. Android 8.0 Oreo has an autofill API that intention work well for a password manager. Android’s fragmented ecosystem means adding APIs to new renderings of Android isn’t really a solution, though. Only 0.3 percent of purchasers have access to that Oreo autofill API.

Here’s hoping Google vacations the power user apps alone. The accessibility APIs have been make known to anyone since their introduction in Android 2.0 eight years ago, and we’ve in some way managed to survive.

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