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Android apps banned from Google Play Store
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Security & privacy

Google is banning this popular type of app from the Play Store

Tons of apps are available for Android devices, spanning various categories from games and daily planners to smart home apps. You might even run into some spoofed apps created by hackers.

Most app categories have specific purposes in mind. For example, did you know there is a category dedicated to comics? There is also a section for casino games, and there are nearly 5,000 apps in the parenting category.

For the most part, those categories seem harmless. But read on to find out why Google is taking steps to remove all the apps from one category altogether.

Here’s the backstory

There are plenty of apps in the Google Play Store that are questionable. Where possible, Google works quickly to rid the app store of malicious apps before doing any serious damage.

But it gets tricky when app developers bend the legalities and functions of internal Android processes. While it was never meant for developers to use it in such a way, Google’s Accessibility API can be tweaked to allow apps to record audio calls.

The prevalence of these apps spawned a sub-category called Call-Recording apps. An update to how Google’s Accessibility API works will eradicate the Play Store of all these secret recording applications.

According to a Developer Program Policy from earlier this month, Google listed several policy changes taking effect later this year. For example, for the Accessibility API, Google outlines that it “is not designed and cannot be requested for remote call audio recording.”

There is a caveat, as call recording can only be offered through the Android phone dialer. Essentially, that means only Google and Android phone makers can enable the recording function, and any third-party app that does so violates Google’s developer policy.

What you can do about it

There might be legitimate scenarios where you want to record a phone call. For example, dialing into a work meeting or the call contains important information if you talk to a lawyer. But in some states, it is illegal to record someone (whether it is voice or video) without their knowledge.

Your state could have a two-party consent system depending on where you live. That means both parties on the call must be aware that it is being recorded and consent to it. If not, like in Florida, the person recording the call could be criminally charged for unlawfully recording.

In May, Google is changing its policy dealing with the Accessibility API. Developers will no longer be allowed to post apps in the Google Play Store that could potentially record calls without both parties’ knowledge. That means you’ll no longer find this category of apps in the Play Store soon.

Keep reading

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