Google is changing its Play Store policy to clamp down on a workaround that call recording apps were using, which could close the final loophole that allowed these apps to exist (via NLL-Apps on Reddit). On May 11, a rule clarification that “the Accessibility API is not designed and cannot be requested for audio recording of remote calls” will take effect, so apps will not be able to record audio of a call.
What XDA points outGoogle has been playing whack-a-mole with call recording methods after it removed the official API with Android 6. In an email to the edge, Google spokesman Dan Jackson said the reason for the change is that call recording was an inappropriate use of the accessibility API. “Only services that are designed to help people with disabilities access their device or overcome challenges stemming from their disabilities are eligible to claim accessibility tools. Reading the Google Play Store description of an accessibility tool, it should be obvious who those users are and how the app helps them deal with the challenges they face,” he said.
Here are the new guidelines:
The Accessibility API is not designed and cannot be requested for audio recording of remote calls.
Use of the Accessibility API must be documented in the Google Play listing.
Guidelines for IsAccessibilityTool
Apps with core functionality intended to directly assist people with disabilities are eligible to use the IsAccessibilityTool to publicly designate themselves as an accessibility app.
Apps that are not eligible for the IsAccessibilityTool cannot use the flag and must comply with the highlighted disclosure and consent requirements as described in the User data policy since accessibility-related functionality is not obvious to the user. please refer to Accessibility Service API help center article for more information.
Apps should use a more limited scope APIs and permissions instead of the Accessibility API when it is possible to achieve the desired functionality.
While it’s understandable that Google doesn’t want apps that use accessibility features outside of their intended purpose, it seems unlikely that this crackdown would help preserve privacy given that Google’s own phone app allows you to record calls natively. (Other default phone apps, like Samsungthey will also be able to keep their call recording functionality as they are not using the accessibility API to get the call audio).
A webinar for developers with more details on their policy updates, including the one affecting call recorders.
Google’s app alerts both parties when a call is being recorded, which is a legal requirement in some areas. While third-party apps may not do this, it appears that Google could force them to do so by building the functionality into a call recording API for Android. google was supposedly working on one for Android 11but did not officially reach the operating system.
This change may also not prevent potential malware from secretly recording your calls. The API will still be there, and it seems unlikely that hackers are worried about Play Store rules. However, legitimate call recording apps might end up rejecting updates if they use this fix in May, and might even be removed from the store.