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Google set to crack down on power-user apps using Android’s accessibility API

Google has just had enough of all developers that use Android’s accessibility API as a means to attract users to their applications. The accessibility API has been around for a long time, with no concrete rules governing its usage or policies regarding it. Considering the past history of Google’s indifference to this issue, this news is relatively new and shocking for many users. The sudden stand against developers using the API has meant that all applications using the accessibility API for recreational purposes, other than helping users suffering from disabilities, will end up eventually being banned from the Play Store.

The news was initially confirmed by XDA Developers, who mentioned the crackdown by Google. Ever since the statement was released, countless developers have received an email from Google pertaining to their accessibility application. The e-mail circulating across social media uses a stringent tone in addressing developers who are using the accessibility API. The new rules circulated through the email state that “Apps requesting accessibility services should only be used to help users with disabilities use Android devices and services.”

The email also states that all developers should explain users how their application is using the accessibility API to help users with disabilities. Google wrapped up the email with a clear cut instruction cum warning that all users who failed to comply with the policy within a 30 days period will be banned and removed from the Play Store.

The new policies crafted by Google will deter a large swath of applications made for power-users. Basically Android API applications are meant for alternative output and inputs, but they also promise powerful controls that have been used by a large number of tweaking developers to promise users better control over their applications. By using accessibility APIs, most developers make their apps access a lot of powerful commands that will eventually make them function in a way similar to a system level application. Through the use of an accessibility API, applications can see other apps that are running on the phone and can take certain actions when a specific app is launched.

Considering what the developers have been looking for through the use of accessibility APIs, Google’s stringent policies in this regard are mildly acceptable. It is understandably why Google wants to put a lid on all applications running powerfully on accessibility APIs, since users manually go through accessibility options to enable the features. Enabling these options for a malicious application can wreak a lot of havoc, and is exactly why Google is cracking down on this API.

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