It was getting harder and harder to record calls for third-party apps, and soon it might be impossible
The Google Phone app that comes pre-installed on the latest Pixel handsets and many other premium Android phones has the ability to record calls in some regions, at least where it’s legal. In the rest of the world and on phones that don’t have built-in features, you’ll have to rely on third-party apps for recording instead. However, it looks like Google is going to crack down on these services, preventing them from using Accessibility Services for this purpose.
As one discovered Editor, an upcoming Play Store policy that was first announced in early April will prohibit apps from using Accessibility APIs for call recording. That is, if they want to distribute their apps on the Google storefront. Politics clearly indicates that “the Accessibility API is not designed and cannot be requested for audio recording of remote calls”. Additionally, API usage should be documented in the Play Store listing, and apps that aren’t designed with accessibility use cases in mind should primarily add disclaimers and require users’ explicit consent before they can be used. These new rules will come into force on May 11, 2022.
In a online seminar, Google further explains what the changes will mean. In it, a Google Play Trust & Safety employee explains that the new policy will specifically affect apps used to record calls with the person on the other end who is unaware of the recording, which does not is usually only possible with third-party apps. This contrasts with preloaded and default apps, which don’t need accessibility services to enable this feature, like Google Phone, for example.
Google has been cracking down on third-party recording apps for years. After the company removed the official call recording API from Android in version 6 Marshmallow, it further restricted access to phone audio in Android 9 Pie by deprecating more APIs. Developers have since turned to Accessibility Services, but with those steered clear of those who want to distribute their apps through the Play Store, third-party call recording may soon be ruled out altogether, at least for now. everyone who gets their apps from the play store.
So far, it’s unclear if apps that continue to use this method will be banned from the Play Store altogether or if there’s a grace period extending beyond May 11. We expect apps to follow this guideline when released or updated after this date, but Google may also ban distribution altogether.
We contacted Google for comment.
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