Google Play Store team is sending out emails to developers telling them that they can no longer implement Accessibility Services unless they follow Google’s guidelines.

Google plans to remove all apps that do not comply with its “Permissions policy and Prominent Disclosure requirements,” the search giant announced. Some developers that are using a special API meant to be used to create apps for users with disabilities to make apps that have other purposes, have been contacted by Google and asked to make some changes to their apps. Among the apps that are using this API for users with disabilities, you might have already heard about LastPass, Tasker or Network Monitor Mini, but there are other popular apps using it as well.

Developers make use of Google’s API to add some functionality to their apps that have nothing to do with its initial purpose, such as overlay content, fill in text fields and so on. The reason Google doesn’t want these apps to keep using the API is that they can potentially create a security risk once a user grants the right permissions.

Apps requesting accessibility services should only be used to help users with disabilities use Android devices and apps. Your app must comply with our Permissions policy and the Prominent Disclosure requirements of our User Data policy.

Action required: If you aren’t already doing so, you 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.

According to Google, all apps that fail to meet its requirements within 30 days will be removed from Play Store. Another option for devs who are using the API is to remove any requests for accessibility services within their app.

This could have major ramifications for hundreds of apps, especially ones intended for customization or power users.



The developer of BatterySaver received this message:

We’re contacting you because your app, BatterySaver System Shortcut, with package name com.floriandraschbacher.batterysaver.free is requesting the ‘android.permission.BIND_ACCESSIBILITY_SERVICE.’ Apps requesting accessibility services should only be used to help users with disabilities use Android devices and apps. Your app must comply with our Permissions policy and the Prominent Disclosure requirements of our User Data policy.

Action required
: If you aren’t already doing so, you 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. Apps that fail to meet this requirement within 30 days may be removed from Google Play. Alternatively, you can remove any requests for accessibility services within your app. You can also choose to unpublish your app.

[…]
Alternatively, you can choose to unpublish the app.
All violations are tracked. 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.
If you’ve reviewed the policy and feel we may have been in error, please reach out to our policy support team. One of my colleagues will get back to you within 2 business days.
Regards,
The Google Play Review Team

Several other developers have told us they received this email, and there is a Reddit thread full of additional reports.

The developer of AutoTools, Joao Dias, told us this:

“Like the other policy that basically says that ‘apps that crash violate developer policy and can be taken down‘ this new statement is too vague. If we take this literally then even an app that’s meant to be used by disabled people can be banned because it allows users that are not disabled to use it. There’s no way an app can enforce that. Is an app like AutoInput (an app that helps a lot of disabled folks) not allowed because a lot of non-disabled people can benefit from it too? There’s no way to tell.”