After announcing in early November that apps which used Google’s Accessibility Services for things other than helping accessibility would be banned, Google has apparently had a change of heart after overwhelming public outcry.
Google has begun sending out an email to developers advising developers who responded to the announcement advising they are pausing the 30 day notice they gave, saying:
We’re evaluating responsible and innovative uses of accessibility services. While we complete this evaluation, we are pausing the 30 day notice we previously contacted you about.
As was discussed when the announcement was made a number of services use Accessibility Services to provide innovative use cases for Android users. While Last Pass is getting auto-fill APIs to help them out the new implementation isn’t perfect and no such API, compatiblity layer or other options exist for great apps like Tasker which allows for automation of tasks once certain conditions are met, Greenify which kills off power hungry apps, Swivel which provides case-by-case rotation control for apps and many more apps which provide enhanced functionality for users thanks to the Accessibility services API.
From the sounds of the email, Google is really looking at this seriously. Google has asked for feedback from developers asking for times when their app ‘app uses the Accessibility API for a responsible, innovative purpose that isn’t related to accessibility’.
It’s good news for many developers, and Android users as a whole. The Accessibility Services API, in the right circumstances can be a nightmare for security allowing key loggers and other nefarious apps to potentially steal your data. Turning off access to the Accessibility Services API wholesale without providing recourse for developers who aren’t engaged in these nefarious practices, but instead are providing services which attract users to the Android platform is a terrible idea.
Hopefully a compromise where these great apps are still able to achieve the same level of functionality, but without compromising user data security can be reached. We’ll find out more soon enough.