Google to remove apps that use accessibility services not designed for users with disabilities

Americas, ICT, November 13 2017

Google is cracking down on how developers employ their Accessibility services in their apps. Unless developers can describe how their app properly uses the Accessibility Services to help users with disabilities, it will need to remove all requests for accessibility services or it will be taken off from the Google Play Store.

Google OreoBut what does Accessibility Service mean? – Accessibility in apps, also called A11y, generally refers to making the application more accessible to users with certain disabilities such as those who are blind or have low vision.

It is speculated that the real reason for this move is related to the issue of exploitation. Apps using accessible services can easily be exploited by malicious developers. For example an accessibility service can also be used to implement a keylogger, ransomware attack or a phishing exploit.

To control this, Google is informing developers that if their application uses an Accessibility Service for any other reason that assisting users with disabilities, they must remove the use of this permission within 30 days. Failure to abide by this can eventually lead to account termination.

For apps that do use accessibility to aid users with disabilities, these developers need to simply add a user-facing disclosure stating the reason behind why their app needs permission.

However, there is a contradiction between this recent development and Google’s developer document for ‘Building An Accessibility Service’ which states that “An Accessibility Service is an application that provides user interface enhancements to assist users with disabilities, or who may temporarily be unable to fully interact with a device. For example, users who are driving, taking care of a young child or attending a very loud party might need additional or alternative interface feedback.”

How this will impact the thousands of application on the Play Store, only time will tell. Currently, developers have 30 days to take action.

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