Google temporarily suspends ban on apps using Accessibility Services in unintended ways

After putting a cap on apps with unnecessary access to Android's Accessibility Services back in November, Google is now taking a step back to re-evaluate its decision. The reasoning behind Google's move was to prevent possible security vulnerabilities that could be caused by apps using these services for malicious purposes. And although Google's decision had its merits—after all, the special API is meant to be used by developers to make their apps accessible to users with various types of disabilities—it also backfired in a way, causing problems with apps, such as LastPass, that used the API for legitimate purposes, albeit not in the way intended by Google.

Fortunately, Google is now temporarily suspending the ban and taking a step back to re-evaluate its requirements for apps that can make "responsible and innovative" use of accessibility features. Android Police reports that the company has started reaching out to affected developers who contacted Google when the ban was imposed last month. Here's an excerpt from an email sent out to one such developer:

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In the case of LastPass, the password manager used Accessibility Services not only to automatically fill passwords with App Fill, but to also conveniently manage links that the user has copied via Clipboard Actions. And although the repercussions for LastPass users were not immediate, the long-term solution for the popular password manager would likely be to make use of the new autofill API that's built into Android 8.0 Oreo, rather than relying on Accessibility Services. On the other hand, since no API counterpart exists to Clipboard Actions, the developer could make the case that LastPass needs Acessibility access in order to be able to deliver its full functionality to users.

Google's decision to more closely regulate apps that tap into Android's Accessibility Services is a good one, as it aims to prevent possible security breaches, but seeing as how there are many apps out there that use the Accessibility API to enrich user experience, albeit not necessarily by utilizing the API in the intended way, a complete crack down on such apps would not have been beneficial for anyone – Google, developers, or end users. We don't know when Google will be ready with re-evaluating its guidelines and impose a revised ban.

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