Google Asks Android Developers to Justify Accessibility Services
Nov 13 2017 by Michele Stevens
Some developers that are using a special API meant to be used to create apps for users with disabilities to make apps that have other purposes, have been contacted by Google and asked to make some changes to their apps. Further, apps that fail to do this can be removed from the Play Store. The reason Google doesn't want these apps to keep using the API is that they can potentially create a security risk once a user grants the right permissions.
The search giant is sending emails to developers using the Accessibility Services API to explain exactly how it will benefit users with disabilities. The algorithm used in finding out which apps are inactive, is that the device recognises which apps have not been active in the background or been triggered by the user in a while.
The service actually helps users with disabilities and Android has a set of Accessibility Services that developers can use to improve their applications. "Your app must comply with our Permissions policy and the Prominent Disclosure requirements of our User Data policy", Google's message reads. That's especially true if you happen to be using a device lacking storage, or simply hate battery-draining apps (and who doesn't?).
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The support team wrapped up the email by adding that if the developers don't follow the rules, they were free to unpublish their apps.
As per XDA Developers, the Android 8.1 Oreo update has a new feature that will automatically flag apps as inactive and will deprioritize the cache files for the specific app. We've reached out to Google for comment, and we will update this post when they respond. All violations are tracked.
Several other developers have told us they received this email, and there is a Reddit thread full of additional reports. The company also informs that repeated violations can call for a termination of the developer's account as well as related Google accounts after investigation. One of my colleagues will get back to you within 2 business days. While the move by Google is understandable, it threatens to remove some of the most used and innovative apps on the Play Store. Most apps do use this feature and a lot of them have no real need to access this information.