Google Play makes bizarre decision to ban call recording apps

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Getty Images | Aurich Lawson

Google has announced a bizarre policy that effectively bans call recording apps from the Play Store. As part of Google’s crackdown on apps that use Android’s Accessibility APIs for non-accessibility reasons, Google says call recording is no longer allowed through the Accessibility APIs. Since Accessibility APIs are the only way for third-party apps to record calls on Android, call recording apps are dead on Google Play.

NLL Apps – the developer of a call recording phone app with one million downloads on the Play Store—a monitoring policy change. The Google game support page establishes the new law, saying, “The Accessibility API is not designed and cannot be requested for audio recording of remote calls.” Google’s ban goes into effect on May 11, the first day of Google I/O, oddly enough.

There is no clear reason why Google is banning call recording on the Play Store. Many jurisdictions require the consent of one or more members of a call in order to begin recording, but once you meet this requirement, recording is completely legal and useful. the Google Recorder app is a product built entirely around the utility of recording conversations. Google also doesn’t seem to have a problem with call recording when it comes to its own apps, the Google Phone app on Pixel phones supports call recording In some countries. Google simply doesn’t provide the proper APIs to allow third-party app developers to compete with it in this market, and now it’s ending their attempts to circumvent it.

Android accessibility APIs are extremely powerful and allow all sorts of controls over the Android operating system. Google has said in the past that it would prefer accessibility APIs to be used only by apps intended for people with disabilities, but since no non-accessibility options exist for most supported functions, many Power-user apps connect to accessibility APIs anyway. . Google said it wanted to crack down on non-accessible accessibility apps, but also wanted to consider “responsible and innovative uses of accessibility services.”

In the past, Google has separated apps from accessibility APIs by supporting a specific use case with a larger set of official APIs, and it seems that was the plan at one point for the call recording, but Google eventually abandoned those plans. In 2020, the second developer preview of Android 11 briefly added a “ACCESS_CALL_AUDIO” API for recording, but this API never made it into a final Android release. Seems like that would have been a reasonable strategy: first support call recording with an appropriate API , then a few years later blocking apps from using the Accessibility API for call recording, instead the way Google went about it effectively bans all call recording apps from the Play Store. The good news is that you can always sideload!

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