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Google's new security policy on accessibility features will limit or remove 'hundreds of good, useful apps'

Android Oreo has new APIs which help remove developers reliance on accessibility permissions. (Source: knd61/Pixabay)
Android Oreo has new APIs which help remove developers reliance on accessibility permissions. (Source: knd61/Pixabay)
The next stage of Google's push to improve Android security is putting a spotlight on applications which misuse accessibility features to add functionality that wasn't expressely designed to improve use for people with disabilities. Some popular apps affected include LastPass, Cerberus, and Tasker.

In more recent times, Google has been working to improve Android’s security, sometimes at the expense of features. Their latest target is apps misusing Android’s accessibility features, which are designed to help people with impairments to use Android devices.

If a user grants an app accessibility permission, they are allowing it to have a relatively invasive level of access to data on the phone and from within apps, which would generally be used to provide things such as text-to-speech. Several ‘non-accessibility focused’ apps also use these permissions to provide additional functionality, such as username and password autofill in password manager apps like LastPass, advanced action features in Tasker, or remote location and wipe functionality in Cerberus. Unfortunately, nefarious apps can also ask for these permissions which allows them to intercept and steal user data.

Google has emailed the developers of apps which use the accessibility features notifying them that they have 30 days (from Friday 10 November) to either convince Google that the app needs the feature for accessibility reasons, remove/replace the functionality, or take down the app from the Play Store.

For password vaults, they will likely switch to Android 8 Oreo’s new autofill feature. Developers are complaining that this autofill feature is currently buggy and not ready for widescale use. The other problem it presents is that they won’t be able to provide that same functionality to the 99.7 percent of users currently on an older version of Android. Developers of other apps will similarly try and find replacement APIs which will likely restrict functionality on versions of Android made before the APIs creation. Unfortunately, some apps use these features without any current API workaround, with the examples of Bixby Button remapping and status bar overlays according to developer ‘Fennifith’ on Reddit.

Those interested in the views of developers can find some in this Reddit thread from the original poster and several commenters.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2017 11 > Google's new security policy on accessibility features will limit or remove 'hundreds of good, useful apps'
Craig Ward, 2017-11-14 (Update: 2017-11-14)