Google Is Cracking Down On Third-Party Call Recording

Google Is Cracking Down On Third-Party Call Recording
It's time to say goodbye to your favourite third-party call recording app. (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

Google’s been cleaning house in the Play Store to weed out bad apps, but it’s breaking some features in the process. If you relied on a particular third-party app to do call recording, you might not have access to it soon.

As reported by Android Police, the developer of the well-known Call Record ACR app has posted to Reddit to air their grievances over an upcoming Play Store policy change. Earlier this month, Google announced that Android apps would be prohibited from using the Accessibility API for call recording outside of its intended use. That’s the specific API developers use to create these apps, though it wasn’t made for this purpose. As the name states, it’s actually an accessibility feature.

Google’s policy for the Accessibility API is that it’s “not designed [for] and cannot be requested for remote call audio recording.” In other words, the apps currently using it for this particular function are technically going against its intended use. The new rules go into effect on May 11, which is, very coincidentally, also the first day of Google’s developer conference.

In a follow-up webinar for developers, Google expanded on its policy changes. An employee moderating the event explained that the new policy affects apps that record calls without making it explicit to the other person on the line, which can run up against various state laws. Developers who want to maintain that access will have to add a disclaimer and require explicit consent before the call is recorded or use a different method of recording calls.

As a journalist who relies on recording everything to get it on the record, I can understand how frustrating this news is for the folks who will have to figure out a new way around a routine workflow. I also see why Google is making this move. As I mentioned, the company’s been buttoning down its Play Store policies, all to sell more people on Android devices and the rest of the ecosystem.

Google still allows call recording on its Google Phone app, which some have criticised as not a developer-friendly move. But Samsung’s phone app can still record, precisely because it doesn’t use the Accessibility API. Anyway, it makes sense that Google would allow its own product to use the Accessibility API, which it manages. I do wonder if there’s a future where Google splits off call recording away from the accessibility options and opens it back up to developers, whether to get back in their good graces or just to maintain this feature on Android phones.