Google cracks down on power-user apps that use Android's accessibility API

Top Before updateBelow After update

Top Before updateBelow After update

Google's sudden policy change seems like it will also reduce the functionality of myriad useful apps and could outright kill others. Apps that fail to meet this requirement within 30 days may be removed from Google Play. Accessibility services code can allow applications to access data in other apps, creating juicy security holes that hackers could exploit to steal private data.

With the accessibility API, apps can access lots of powerful commands that let them function a bit like a system-level app, and the legitimate, non-accessibility uses are nearly endless. Google is doing so as it does not want the API to be used for purposes other than helping disable users and there are security reasons as well.

AndroidPolice reported this citing one such email that was sent to BatterySaver. "We will have no other choice than un-publishing the app from the Play Store".

The policy enforcement could affect apps like LastPass, Tasker, Cereberus and Universal Copy that use accessibility code for key features not intended for handicapped users. The e-mail says that developers "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". "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", the email reads further.

Google is aiming to take down the malicious apps from Play Store with this move. It can also be used to install a malicious information-stealing app-or even hijack the screen and lock the user out ala ransomware.

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