Google: App developers must inform users how they use Accessibility service or risk being axed

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You must be aware of Accessibility Services. It is a set of features designed for disabled people to help them navigate and use Android. The service can be found in the settings menu. However, Google has just sent warning emails to apps that use this service. Accessibility services can be used by apps for many purposes like autofill, overlay content and more. Originally, this is meant to help the disabled but this level of control can also be misused to procure sensitive information.google play

When an app asks the user permission to enable accessibility services, it opens the door for the API to read data from other places. This is what has concerned Google and this is also why they have sent emails to developers. Several developers have reported getting the email from the Google Play Team. The email instructs developers to inform users how they use the Accessibility services. Further, apps that fail to do this can be removed from the Play Store.

What is worth noting here is that Google’s new rule is described very vaguely. That is because even apps designed specifically for disabled people can be banned because anyone can use them. Moreover, there are many apps like LastPass and Tasker that rely a lot on this service. For them, it would make functioning a lot harder. Google has also asked developers to inform them if there is something wrong with their policy and they will reply shortly. Below is the content of the email sent to one app developer.

Google Play Review Team Says

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.

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.

 

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