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.