Wed, 14 Nov 2018

Google cracks down on apps misusing accessibility features

By Sheetal Sukhija, US News
14 Nov 2017, 10:26 GMT+10

CALIFORNIA, U.S. - In a bid to crackdown on applications that misuse accessibility features, Google has decided to launch a crack down.

Android’s accessibility services, that are designed to help disabled folks by letting app-makers integrate spoken feedback, voice commands and more - is believed to being misused. 

According to reports, developers like LastPass have been using the functions for other purposes like autofilling passwords and overlaying content. 

The misuse gives such apps an easy way to read data from other apps like YouTube, and also creates a potential security risk. 

Google has now reportedly told app makers that they must show how accessibility code is helping disable users or their apps will be removed from the Play Store within 30 days.

Apps will have to explain to users how their product is using the accessibility service to help users with disabilities use Android devices and apps. 

However, apps that fail to meet this requirement within 30 days may be removed from Google Play. 

According to reports, 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. 

Universal Copy's developer said on the Reddit Android Reddit, "This is really bad news. We will have no other choice than un-publishing the app from the Play Store."

Tasker's developer said that it will have to replace the accessibility services with different code and that will disable some functionality, especially on older Android builds. 

They wrote on a Google forum, “I plan to replace app detection with usage stats API. Unfortunately... people using Tasker on a pre-Lollipop device won't be able to use app contexts anymore."

Google’s move comes as part of a larger push to improve the security of apps in the Play Store. 

The company recently implemented a new feature called Play Protect to scan apps and added a warning screen to block unverified apps. 

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