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Hundreds of Android apps might be removed from the Google Play Store for misusing accessibility...

By Polycount ยท 7 replies
Nov 13, 2017
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  1. Hundreds of Android app developers may have just received some unfortunate news from Google. Developers whose apps use Android's accessibility features outside of their intended purpose will need to abide by a few new rules or risk of having their apps removed from the Play Store entirely.

    According to an e-mail sent out to the developers in question, they will have 30 days to do one of the following: remove their apps from the Google Play Store, "remove any requests for accessibility services within [their apps]" or "explain to users how [their apps are] using the [accessibility services] to help users with disabilities..."

    It's important to note that it isn't just the smaller, more niche apps that will fall under the umbrella of these new restrictions. Even popular apps like LastPass, Tasker and Status use accessibility services for various, apparently unintended purposes. For example, LastPass uses accessibility services to enable their app's password auto-fill functionality.

    A few developers have commented on the matter already and the general consensus seems to be that this is not good news. Status developer James Fenn explained the situation in a Reddit post, citing security concerns as a potential motivation behind Google's e-mail:

    "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. That said, I wish they would find a another way to go about resolving this that didn't involve the removal of hundreds of good, useful apps from the Play Store."

    Tasker developer Pent took to Google's own forums to explain how he plans to proceed:

    "I plan to replace app detection with the usage stats API. Unfortunately, this
    API started with API 21, (until they restrict the usage of that....) so people
    using Tasker on a pre-Lollipop device won't be able to use app contexts anymore."

    The issue for many developers will likely be the 30-day time frame. While it may be possible for some developers to recreate key features of their apps in a way that avoids the improper use of accessibility services, they will undoubtedly struggle to do so within such a tight window of time.

    Permalink to story.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 14, 2017
  2. mattfrompa

    mattfrompa TS Evangelist Posts: 542   +48

    I use and need Lastpass on Android! I'm nitpicking, but a picture of an iPhone feels out of place here. Granted, it does show an app relevant to the article.
     
  3. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,270   +895

    Oh boy, even though it's bad news to developers, IT IS good news for us consumers who really don't know what's going on behind the curtain.

    At first I was like... "what? really he is complaining about the picture?" Then I gave a second thought to it and was like... yeah really, they are talking about Android yet an iPhone is showing... then a third thought to it... who really cares? And I think I'm good with my initial thought, I made peace with it :)
     
  4. OutlawCecil

    OutlawCecil TS Maniac Posts: 234   +109

    Um I usually take the side of Google on stuff like this but come-on! The Accessibility menu on Android holds lots of random settings. You can't suddenly say that section was meant for people who are disabled. Exactly what kind of disability needs "Power button ends call"? People with no hands but are somehow using their phone and can somehow still hit a button? Accessibility = "easy to approach, reach, enter, speak with, or use" so to me, that would include apps "being able to use" additional features of your phone. I'm all for privacy and protection but if this section is being misused, it's because functionality elsewhere is unavailable. Fix the real issue here...
     
    Theinsanegamer likes this.
  5. Polycount

    Polycount TS Addict Topic Starter Posts: 172   +72

    You know, I didn't even think about that when I wrote this... Oops! ;)

    (I'm a secret Apple fanboy, muahahah - okay, not really)
     
  6. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 815   +828

    Google's security theater is not convincing here.

    If they really wanted to fix security and privacy concerns, they would first fix their own software, but second they would either patch or remove the APIs. Removing legitimate apps that use those APIs doesnt make anything more secure.

    If I wanted a locked down ecosystem, I would buy an iphone. The whole point of android is how flexible it can be, and this is just a long line of decisions by google trying to force people to use their stuff only the way google intended, and it has spread more and more to their other software the last few years.

    Man I miss Windows Phone....
     
  7. Polycount

    Polycount TS Addict Topic Starter Posts: 172   +72

    Out of curiosity, what did you like about the Windows Phone? More specifically, what did it offer that other phones didn't? Genuinely wondering, I didn't pay much attention to it at the time.
     
  8. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,270

    You're definitely the only person I've heard saying that. I owned a Windows pile of crap mobile device once, the Lumia 620. Damn man, what a waste of money. I still get annoyed when I think about it today. Both the phone and the OS (I think it was Win 8.1) were terrible.
     

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