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Google to Ban Third-Party Call Recording Apps

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Developers can no longer use the Accessibility API for call recording.

The Google Play Store, used on Android phones, offers a multitude of third-party-developed apps for recording one’s phone calls. Google has spent several generations of Android’s development attempting to limit this out of concerns for user privacy, though the current means of circumventing security protocols is the use of the Accessibility API. This API is designed for people with various disabilities, though it can also be used to access a phone’s audio functions.

According to a 9to5Google report, Google is tweaking their Play Store policy to forbid the use of that API to make call recording apps. This, in effect, will ban any third-party call recording apps from the Play Store.

“Apps with a core functionality intended to directly support people with disabilities are eligible to use the IsAccessibilityTool,” the updated policy states. “Apps not eligible for IsAccessibilityTool may not use the flag and must meet prominent disclosure and consent requirements. The Accessibility API is not designed and cannot be requested for remote call audio recording.”

Default apps like Google Dialer with built-in call recording support will still be able to perform their tasks. The main thing Google wants to prevent is the act of recording a call without the consent of both involved parties.

“If the app is the default dialer on the phone and also pre-loaded, accessibility capability is not required to get access to the incoming audio stream,” Google content global operations lead Moun Choi said in a webinar video. “Hence would not be in violation. Since this is a clarification to an existing policy, the new language will apply to all apps starting on May 11th.”