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Google remotely deletes Android apps

Apps ‘misrepresented’ their purpose in order to trick people in to downloading them, claims Google

Google has confirmed that it has remotely deleted two applications from mobile phones running the Android operating system after the apps were found to contravene Google app store policy.
Product descriptions for the two unnamed apps misrepresented their purpose in order to encourage downloads, said Google.

Rich Cannings, a security specialist with the Google Android team, said that the free apps had been created by a security researcher for “research purposes”, and that the software was not used maliciously, nor did it access the private data of users who installed the apps.
“Recently, we became aware of two free applications built by a security researcher for research purposes. 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,” wrote Cannings in a blog post.
“After the researcher voluntarily removed these applications from Android Market, we decided, per the Android Market Terms of Service, to exercise our remote application removal feature on the remaining installed copies to complete the cleanup.”
Cannings said the remote delete facility, sometimes referred to as a ‘kill switch’, was one of many security controls built in to Android to “help protect users from malicious applications”. He said that in the event of an emergency, a dangerous app could be removed from active circulation in a rapid and scalable manner.
Many other companies have similar remote kill switches for their devices, and Google has attracted little criticism for this move compared to some other organisations. In July, Amazon was forced to deflect criticism from users after it remotely deleted George Orwell’s 1984 from Kindle ebook readers following a copyright violation. Two years ago, Steve Jobs confirmed that the Apple iPhone and iPod touch had a kill switch that enabled Apple to remotely delete malicious or inappropriate apps.
“Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull,” said Jobs.

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