Google set to ban third-party apps from recording Android phone calls

Android privacy
A loophole allowing the Accessibility API to be used is being removed. Photo credit: Getty Images

Android users are set to get a boost in privacy after it was revealed an upcoming Google Play Store change will effectively ban third-party apps from recording calls.

The discovery was first posted about on social network news site Reddit, with the new policy set to come into force on May 11, 2022 (US time).

In the announcement on its Android Development page, Google stated the "Accessibility API cannot be used to... work around Android built-in privacy controls and notifications".

"The Accessibility API is not designed and cannot be requested for remote call audio recording."

Google has been removing APIs that allow call recording for a while now, due to privacy and security issues. In Android 10 it blocked call recording by default.

That forced apps to use the Accessibility API to record the calls, something that wasn't an intended use.

Call recording laws also differ across countries, with one-party recording illegal in some.

The new policy only applies to third-party recording apps, which means native call recording functionality on the likes of Google's own Pixel phones and Xiaomi's phones that use the Mi Dialer aren't impacted.

That was confirmed by a Google spokesperson during a developer webinar, who confirmed that pre-installed system apps can still record calls but third-party apps which need extra permissions will not be able to.

"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, and hence, will not be in violation," they said.

Reddit user NLL-APPS, who posted the thread on the site, didn't agree with Google's policy change.

"Call recording is a valid need for many businesses and people," they wrote.

"Banning it from Google Play Store will push people to look elsewhere and start installing apps from unknown or not trusted sources.

"They once had a go in the initial days of Android 11 and implemented a privacy respecting call recording functionality that beeps when a call is recorded. Unfortunately, whatever happened, it was not included in the final version of Android 11."