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Google is taking away SMS/MMS and Call functionality from Tasker

crimsdings
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Sources: Tasker Dev himselfe

https://old.reddit.com/r/tasker/comments/9w2cq6/google_is_taking_away_smsmms_and_call/

https://old.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/9w2uc7/tasker_google_is_taking_away_smsmms_and_call/

https://old.reddit.com/r/androiddev/comments/9w3kac/tasker_google_is_taking_away_smsmms_and_call/

 

Android issue Tracker:

https://issuetracker.google.com/issues/117486314

 

 

 

Quote

The Problem

So google recently announced some changes to how Google Play store handles SMS and Call permissions in apps. I'm all for more security, so I submitted the requested form convinced that even though an app like Tasker doesn't appear on that list of exceptions, they could acknowledge that automation apps are a perfectly fine example of apps where these permissions should be allowed. Let's see:

  • Tasker requests for the SMS and Call permissions only when strictly needed
  • The user has to explicitly use SMS and Call conditions and actions in Tasker for Tasker to do anything with them
  • Tasker doesn't log or keep any of that data anywhere outside its own runtime environment unless the user chooses otherwise

For Tasker to have access to this data, the user has to go out of their way to give Tasker that access. Nevertheless, 40 days after I submitted the request (giving me only 50 days to make necessary changes, including the Christmas holidays) they respond with this:

Thank you for contacting the Google Play team. We have received the following information in the Permissions Declaration Form you submitted:

Q1 - Core use case(s)Caller ID, spam detection, and blocking, Cross-device call or SMS sync & send, Initiate a text message, Initiate a phone call, Automation of an unlimited number of situations based on calls, SMS and MMS

Q2 - Declared permission(s)READ_CALL_LOGWRITE_CALL_LOGPROCESS_OUTGOING_CALLSREAD_SMSSEND_SMSWRITE_SMSRECEIVE_SMSRECEIVE_MMS

I’ve reviewed your request and found that your app, Tasker, net.dinglisch.android.taskerm, does not qualify for use of the requested permissions for the following reasons: 

  • The declared feature, "Initiate a text message, Initiate a phone call, and Automation of an unlimited number of situations based on calls, SMS and MMS" are ineligible for these permissions.
  • The declared feature "Caller ID, spam detection, and blocking and Cross-device call or SMS sync & send" are allowed; however we determined it to be unnecessary for the core functionality of your app.
  • The declared feature "Caller ID, spam detection, and blocking and Cross-device call or SMS sync & send" are allowed; however we were unable to verify this feature during app review.
  • Your app has default handler capability that doesn’t match with your declared feature.The default handler features are allowed; however your app does not appear to prompt the user to be a default handler prior to requesting related permissions as required by the policy.

Please follow the steps below to submit an updated app.

Next steps

  • Read through the Permissions policy and review the Use of SMS or Call Log permission groups help article, which describes exceptions, invalid uses, and alternative implementation options.
  • Make appropriate changes to your app. Remove the specified permissions from your app’s manifest, migrate to an available alternative, or evaluate if your app qualifies for an exception.
  • If your app is a default handler or you believe your app qualifies for an exception, please submit a new request via the Permissions Declaration Form to use these permissions.
  • Make sure that your app is compliant with all other Developer Program Policies. Additional enforcement could occur if there are further policy violations.
  • Sign in to your Play Console and submit the update to your app.
  • Alternatively, you can choose to unpublish the app.

If you've reviewed the policy and have further questions, please reach out to our policy support team.The Google Play Team

In short, Tasker is ineligible for these permissions. The Automation app use case doesn't apply here.

Extra Security

As I said, I'm all for security, but please give users what they want. Maybe Google can have a big popup when an app requests these permissions saying BE VERY AWARE! THIS APP CAN ACCESS ALL YOUR SMS! ONLY GIVE ACCESS IF YOU TRUST THE APP!, or they could make it a special permission, like Device Admin, or Accessibility Services, anything! Anything but to take away stuff from users and developers that they have worked so hard for!

SMS is one of the most used features in Tasker, but because someone at Google forgot to make it an acceptable case for these permissions, now everyone loses.

I mean, this is still the operating system where ANY APP can simply access the user's clipboard without requesting ANY PERMISSION AT ALL! Clipboard: the place where millions of users routinely put their passwords in... 

Again If Google really is concerned about privacy, please give users the chance to defend themselves. Don't simply take stuff away...

This has happened before

Tasker was previously banned from Google Play because it requested the permission for Android to not optimize battery for it. After a few days, Google reconsidered and unbanned the app. Google added a special exception in their policies because of Tasker (Task automation app in the list). Maybe the same will happen here? It would be great but in the mean time a lot of user and development time will be lost trying to deal with the situation.

Another similar situation was when Google announced they would remove apps from Google Play that used accessibility services for anything other than helping users with "disabilities", which besides being incredibly vague (what exactly is a "disability") makes no sense because those can be used for a lot of purposes. So, Google later simply forgot all about it. Again, Google actually listened to users and devs, but in the mean time a lot of time and money was lost.

Let's seriously hope that Google can reconsider this situation as well!

TL;DR;

There you have it. Until further notice I'll have to spend the following month making the app ready to be used without SMS and Call permissions. As if I don't have anything better to do at the moment... :PPlease expect SMS and Call functionality to be removed from Tasker in January. If you don't like it, tell Google about it!

PS:

In their email above Google says Alternatively, you can choose to unpublish the app. However, during a recent Google Play Q&A session

 their representative said that devs even need to make their unpublished apps compliant. So, which is it Google?? Also, where can I reach that policy support team they mention?

Please upvote on r/android and /r/androiddev

 

 

 

Edited by crimsdings
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