Google Flicks Remote Kill Switch on Two Android Applications

While it’s currently cool to love Google’s Android and hate Apple’s iOS, especially because of the massive difference in philosophy (open vs. closed), Google still retains a fair amount of control over the Android Market. This was demonstrated this week Google employed its remote kill switch for two Android Market applications, removing them from all Android devices on which they were installed.

The story goes like this. Two applications in the Android Market were identified as, well, useless and misleading. “Recently, we became aware of two free applications built by a security researcher for research purposes,” writes Rich Cannings, Android Security Lead, “These applications intentionally misrepresented their purpose in order to encourage user downloads, but they were not designed to be used maliciously, and did not have permission to access private data – or system resources beyond permission.INTERNET. As the applications were practically useless, most users uninstalled the applications shortly after downloading them.”

The applications were voluntarily removed from the Android Market by their author, and in order to “complete the cleanup”, Google used the remote application removal ‘feature’ to clean up the remaining installations floating around Android devices. Users received a notification.

It’s a strange thing. I just don’t know where I stand on things like this. One the one hand, it’s good Google is protecting Android users from harm, but on the other hand, this is my phone, and a company having access to it like this scares me. Sure, Google is using it for good this time around, but who can promise me it won’t be used maliciously later on? I mean, Apple’s idiotic App Store policies started out harmless, but got way out of control as time progressed.

We’ll see.

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