New Google Play Store policy cracks down on call-recording apps

Recording calls
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Starting May 11, Google will begin rolling out a policy change to its Play Store that will prevent third-party apps from using the Accessibility API to record calls and some new consumer protections.

This is the start of a year-long policy change for the Play Store that will involve changes to real-money games and news apps to better protect people. Despite Google's stated good intentions, people online have already started to take issue with the company's changes.

API crackdown

The Accessibility API is a set of protocols that developers can integrate into their apps so people with disabilities can use them. Google points out apps like screen readers for people with visual impairments or voice features for “...people with motor impairments” as proper usage.

According to Google, some developers have taken advantage of this API to bypass Android privacy controls to allow remote call recording or change a device’s settings without user consent.

Alongside the API changes, Google will be adding a Families Ads Program to ensure advertisements on apps are age-appropriate and expanding its Misleading Claims section.

These changes were revealed on April 6 and developers have a period of 30 days to implement these changes or have their app removed from the Play Store.

Later in the year, there will be a crackdown on gambling apps that offer physical prizes, and the requirement that news apps must provide information on their owner and reveal article sources.

Developer critique

An app developer on the Android subreddit has a problem with the API change and even claims that it will “ …kill call recording apps once and for all..”

The developer of ACR Call Recorder states the change will not be good for the consumer as it will cause people to seek out call-recording services in less reputable places. The developer worries that users will download apps from untrustworthy sources and potentially expose themselves to malware.

The developer is also critical of Google’s latest webinar video on the policy change. The video presently reportedly states that third-party phone apps have access to call audio, but the developer states this isn’t true. Only the native phone app on Android phones has access.

That said, Android is an open-source OS, and it will probably only be a matter of time until these developers find a workaround for the latest Google policies.

Cesar Cadenas

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.