Google Has Nuclear Option for Android Apps

Security researcher's test app deleted from all phones

By Jackson West
|  Thursday, Jun 24, 2010  |  Updated 4:00 PM PDT
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Google Has Nuclear Option for Android Apps

Etsy.com

Google hopes its remote control over Android apps give customers warm, fuzzy feelings of safety and not fear of centralized power.

While Google has touted its "App Marketplace" for applications that run on Android-powered mobile devices as the more open alternate to Apple's App Store for iPhones, that doesn't mean the company has given up complete control.

Recently, the company discovered two apps developed by a security researcher looking for vulnerabilities in Android, which was being offered for free and disguising their true purpose.

So even though most users deleted the app from the phone, and the creator removed it from the market, Google went ahead and pressed the metaphorical kill switch, deleting the app remotely from the Googleplex.

"While we hope to not have to use it, we know that we have the capability to take swift action on behalf of users’ safety when needed," writes Android Security Lead Rich Cannings in the company's official announcement.

While in this case the issue is clearly benign -- the apps deleted had no malicious intent and didn't steal any personal information or corrupt phone software -- it illustrates the centralized power that companies like Google can wield over its products.

Now the question is whether Android phones can be remotely disabled from the Googleplex as well, as can Apple iPhones. And, of course, whether customers of either brand care.

Jackson West does see how many could find this a positive feature.

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