Google pauses accessibility service crackdown

Developers may get out of a bind

Google seems to be taking a softer stance on its “accessibility crackdown”, pausing the program for a review.

In late November, the Chocolate Factory warned Android developers not to use accessibility features outside their intended use.

The accessibility framework is useful to simulate text entry or screen taps, but ad fraudsters had worked out how to generate fake clicks without the user noticing, so Google started a crackdown, giving app developers 30 days to comply.

That's now on pause, according to an e-mail posted to Reddit.

“We’ll notify you once our evaluation is completed. If further actions are needed to bring your app into compliance with our policies, your 30 day notice period will begin when we reach back out to you,” the e-mail said.

Google's e-mail also “clarified” its advice about using the accessibility service:

  • If an app doesn't need the BIND_ACCESSIBILITY_SERVICE, remove the permission (no further action required);
  • If it's using the service for accessibility, “you must set the android:description element” as a user alert with a Google-specified sentence; and
  • Disclosure is also required for non-accessibility applications of the service, before the user is asked to grant permission to the service.

“For each accessibility capability declared, you must have an accompanying disclosure to describe the app functionality that the Accessibility Service permission is enabling for your app. (The default disclosure tells us 'what', but you must disclose to the user 'why')”, the message explained.

Developers were asked to get in touch and explain why their use of the service counts as a “responsible, innovative” purpose unrelated to accessibility. ®

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