back to article Android comes with a kill-switch

Google has put itself in charge of policing Android devices. The search giant is retaining the right to delete applications from Android handsets on a whim. Unlike Apple, the company has made no attempt to hide its intentions, and includes the details in the Android Market terms and conditions, as spotted by Computer World: …

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Pirate

The 1st app I'll write

Is to block access to the blacklist. Lets see Google kill that one !!!

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Jobs Halo

just wondering

why this is being reported so.... nicely.... I remember the outrage that happened when the reg found out about apple doing this with the iJesus is all...

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So basically

From being the champion of freedom and openness to being much more closed and intrusive than the Redmond Beast and arguably more than the Cupertino mob, then. Fail.

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Alien

Find the source Luke.

Go read the source code and find out?

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Here's you new Android phone sir.

Oh by the way, it isn't yours really, it is owned by Google who can and will remove any applications you download from them and possiibly other third parties that it deems unfit.

I was considering Android purely because I thought I would have control over a handset that I purchased. Open source, no hidden nastiness has to be a good thing. It is now tainted.

I wait until someone smarter than I hacks google control out of the device, then I will reconsider. Until then the OS on this device is no better than that on any other proprietary handset.

I can understand the Google position on this, if anyone can distribute any applications they like the device is ripe for abuse. Still informing the user of any malicious application and it's behaviour and allowing the user to chose whether or not to remove that app would be imho the more fitting solution.

Google have just admitted that the device is monitored and has a back door just like the iPhone. More fool those who allow this kind of invasion.

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Freedom

If you seriously want freedom then you need to turn to the world of pengiun and get an OpenMoko based device.

So long as a phone or platfform is developed by a large organisation and is sold under contract you won't be able to do what you like with it.

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Killer App

Given how well Google writes EULs it wouldent suprise me if the point in this is to wipe any apps from there site, and from affected phones, which will damage the phone of anyone who downloads it befor they can stop it going out.

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Pirate

Not so much an Android more a Dracula.

Oh dear, that marks out Google as definitely a Government Spook Outfit stealing all your random thoughts looking for Knowledge? Or a Wannabe Government Spook Outfit?

Shame that their Client Base doesn't Really know in the Virtual Environment what to do, and what can be done Remotely with Proxies, with the Intel gathered and displayed though.

Ah .... the Ignorant Impetuosity of Youth and Arrogant Hubris of Age to Think that they Lead rather than Supply Leads to Youthful Leaders and the Much More XXXXPerienced Born Again Souls.

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Go

You may not agree with the functionality

But isn't the transparency in the T&Cs something of a good thing? It at least allows people to make an informed decision on whether they are prepared to accept it or not.

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defend this - fanbois!

oh... the wonder phone has a weakness its just as locked down as the Iphone, just as expensive, looks shite, etc... Id rather have the Jesus phone! oh, wait.. no i wont! :)

and what about the little WM phones... write what you want for it, charge what you want, distribute it however you want! yes... big evil microsoft at it again! lol!!

I think about 60 years ago, a bloke with a small moustache was suggesting what was good for his followers... that worked out well for him, didnt it!

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Anonymous Coward

So this is.....

...just like the kill switch that carriers retain to be able to disable handsets in particular scenarios? But would never really use in reality?

Move along please, nothing to see here.

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Google is the new Redmond

Time they (MS and Google, possibly Yahoo! too) wer torn apart and made less of a danger to us all.

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Flame

Much ado

Google are not evil like Apple, this fuss will last about as long as the fuss about the EULA did.

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@Matt

Way to bring Hitler into a conversation about mobile phones...

I can't say I like the idea of Google reserving this ability with Carte Blanche to apply for whatever reason they see fit, how ever they have openly announced it and are massively more open than Apple who won't let you install many things without them anyway.

Looking at this practically, chances are that Google is concerned people will try and sneak Malware through their marketplace. Many people might have a false belief that because it is found via the Google service that they have to be less careful about who they trust, and Google wants an easy way to protect its reputation in this event.

I seriously doubt Google intend to act like Apple who obviously use their control of the device to limit users to software that they choose, refusing to allow software that provides functionality they don't like to be added.

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jai
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funny

i remember the oh-so-righteous comments about the iPhone's kill switch in which people were saying how Android was going to be superior because Google wouldn't stoop so low as to do something like this

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Pirate

@Adnim and anyone else who wants a truly open phone

The phone you want is the OpenMoko FreeRunner... once the software is up to production standard. More info at http://www.openmoko.com where they are now painting a fairly rosy picture. You'll get a better idea of software quality at http://www.openmoko.org - not a phone for the non-techy yet...

Repeat after me: "Open source is good. Say no to apple, google and microsoft. I want my phone to run free, unfettered by unreasonable EULAs and subtle ties back to the mothership"

I'm thinking along the lines of Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the difference here being that while Wallace never actually revealed what rabbits would eat instead of vegetables, we can all eat open source goodness instead...

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Not too keen on this

Ummm...so "my" phone would phone home to Google base occasionally and they may or may not (depending upon some criteria) remove applications I installed. Just who does the phone belong to then? Who pays for the phone home bit?

I'll pass on this then.

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Neo Freerunner

Why not jusy buy a Neo Freerunner phone? It has a choice of either Debian or the standard Openmoko firmware.

Mike

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Windows Mobile

One of the nice things about Windows Mobile is the abundance of tools not only to remove simlocks but to install what you like and even rebuild the entire rom - to include/exclude whatever you want/don't want. I suppose this will come to the iphone and others but there is some catching up to be done.

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@so this is

not really - the kill switch is an indiscriminate write action to (remotely) disable a handset (or SIM). This seems to be more like a read action to see what's on the phone, analysis of what applications are installed on the phone, followed (potentially) by another command to initiate deletion of specific applications from your phone.

Also, extrapolating wildly, if google can execute remote commands on your phone then presumably so could anyone else...

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sigh...

FOR SHAME GOOGLE, FOR SHAME!

*Strikes Android off the "cool things to look out for" list.

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Neo Freerunner

Sorry to all the people saying it, but the Freerunner is a pile of cow droppings. Honestly. The design of this phone is one of the worst I've ever seen and in its current form has no chance of being any use to anyone.

Just search for Freerunner vs. iPhone for more information on Freerunner major design flaws. I'm not an Apple fanboi either, I'm all for open source but we have to do a lot better with OpenMoko than we're doing right now...

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Joke

I said it would be a joke...

Hate to say I told you so ;)

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Paris Hilton

re: funny

What's funny? They complained about the iPhone killswitch. They are complaining about the Android killswitch.

What's funny about that.

It's not even "funny-odd".

It's completely consistent.

WTF you smoking boi?

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Flame

We own you and everything you own

Google seem to think they own everyone and everything you own, nothing changes does it.

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There goes another option..

I was seriously considering getting my sweaty mits on an android to have a play and try and support 'another option' but I don't see this happening now. I don't want a phone that reports back to the mothership so they can censor what I have on the device.

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Tough one...

I certainly don't feel comfortable with Google telling my phone which apps it deems as 'ungood'. But then, if something dastardly happens, for example, a worm that spreads around eating up your call credit calling 09xx numbers in the background, I bet we'd all be grateful then if Google can just whack it from everyone's handset in one swoop.

Perhaps it needs to be clearer under what conditions such a kill could be justified.

Jolyon

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Go

Solution

If you don't like it, don't buy it. If you bought it you must like it. If you bought it and didn't read the fine print then you're ripe for foreclosure... err... software removal.

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Gootard

Ye are bourne of Google, and ye shall return to Google. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, Google to Google.

You will be assimilated. One way or another.

Does the new Android phone have an accelerator detector in it? Could the Google overloads build up a remote database on how many times you have a tug with the phone in your pocket? That's scary. They could have a Tug database on all the chaps with an Android phone, then use that data to send associated advertisement content to you - like 'last longer' cream, or cream for constipated cocks. Or even advertisements for dating websites, to help you get a real girlfriend.

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is this where we find that linux isn't so secure

Typically, virus writers go after the low-hanging fruit. The stuff that's easiest to exploit - for a reasonable return.

Giving (well, OK: selling) people a device where most of the code is available, or to be made available AND can be used to suck money directly out of your bank account is a bit of a game changer. It now becomes much more profitable for the baddies to spend a lot of time and ingenuity to find ways to subvert, exploit or create loopholes in this open platform. Their motivation (and numbers) being far greater that that of the developers, it's only a matter of time before Andriod exploits start circulating.

Up to now, linux has had a reputation for being secure. A lot of this is based on the fact that M$'s products are far more popular - thus providing a bigger, if not juicier target and traditionally containing security holes large enough to drive a SCSI bus through. As a consequence, the number of Linux exploits - ones that have actually been used to do nasty things on other people's linux platforms, have been scarce. I can see that the assumptions the security assessments are based on will soon be challenged.

Personally, I'll give the Andriod a miss - it's only a phone afterall - and stick with the tried and trusted rule: never use version 1

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Dan
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Of course Android regularly phones home

Chrome regularly phones home too.

I'm surprised people are surprised. The only way Google can make money is to look at people's usage patterns and show them adverts based on them. They're not going to go to all this effort to make a mobile phone platform and really give it away for free.

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re: Tough one...

Wouldn't it be better to have the ability to remove such a program yourself?

Else what happens if you get a worm that dials out and removes all your paid-for content?

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Boffin

@Jolyon

And there lies the future of online communication.

For all the Windows haters out there the next gen domestic computers will not just tie you to the OS but also to the permitted apps - future developments? Restricting the sites that can be accessed to those that are certified by Goople, or restricting the sites to those that pay Aggle to be certified?

Sell it on vastly improved security - a single vast online shopping mall with approved vendors, contextual, personalised advertising and compulsory feedback of browsing history so that your online environment can be continually adjusted for the most satisfactory browsing experience.

Oh and a single unified payment system so that they can lose all your credits in a single batch file.

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...same as the old boss.

Showing signs of losing another customer here as well. I want a phone that can stand alone without hanging off servers and software installed desktop PCs. Currently only symbian and windows mobile can do that, and the latter not as well. I was kinda hoping that Google were finally gonna do it right but it appears not. Looks like i'll be getting another nokia smartphone this year...

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Coat

Surely every android should have a kill switch...

...to prevent it from violating the Three Laws:

1. Do not allow third party software to trample on the revenue stream.

2. Do not allow users to use third party software when they could rack up usage charges instead.

3. Own the phone, even after it is bought and paid for

Oh, and in response to previous posts about OpenMoko, yes, the software is poo right now, they are suffering from forks, there are at least three different forks currently being supported, the teams all need to consolidate behind one to get close to the Android/iPhone software standards or the phone will wither on the vine...

Mine's the one with the remote kill switch in the pocket...

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Stop

@ Jolyon

Even if an application has been maliciously calling 09xx numbers in the background, it will stop ..... eventually. You can never lose more than the amount of credit you put on your phone.

I'm not sure that this sort of agreement would be legal on the Continent ..... and if it's legal in the UK, that's only because of John Major unilaterally opting us out of certain laws that didn't suit the Tories.

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@Peter

"A lot of this is based on the fact that M$'s products are far more popular - thus providing a bigger, if not juicier target and traditionally containing security holes large enough to drive a SCSI bus through."

No.

Otherwise Apache would have more than 2/3 of the exploits, being the most popular web server. Web servers being a great resource for information that can be used for nefarious purposes. And, unlike desktop machines, generally on 24/7.

The reality is quite different.

MS's desktop products are more hacked because they are more hackable.

End of story.

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Stop

@Mike Gravgaard & Oreo

The Neo Freerunner doesn't work yet - they even admit as much on the TrueBox website. It is purely in development stage and aimed at nurds (or is that nerds).

Please use google (other data mining search engines are available) and do a bit of research before posting drivel.

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ET Phone Home

Sorry, just had to say that. Or rather, JUST SAY NO to gPhone and iPhone and / or don't get a mobe at all.

Ok, so who's waiting for the first customer who buys this POS who purchases and installs a 3rd party program that G wipes off their unit and see how long until their lawyer is making a bundle of cash over it?

If and when I ever get a unti, it will make emergency calls that I need and won't have all this foolishness. MEH

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Anonymous Coward

own everything?

We own you and everything you own

By Simon B Posted Thursday 16th October 2008 12:20 GMT

Google seem to think they own everyone and everything you own, nothing changes does it.

i thought they already did so why beat the dead horse?

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irrelevant

... since the Android phones look pants.

Why can't i keep my nokia [insert very old model number here] and just make calls, i didn't need google to use the POTS system last i checked.

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Death of something predicted in 5..4..3..2..

Mobile companies, both the handset providers and the bandwidth providers, are very sensitive about their property. We buy our handsets from the phone company, subsidised for the life of the account. The retail price of the average smartphone is £3-400, proved by the cost of the Freerunner, and I'm sure that there are very few people reading this who slapped that down for their Crackberry or Pomegranate or whatever shiny toy dragged them into a Vodafone shop last time they passed. In return the providers support these phones, so if yours dies, you can call them and get some assistance in getting it fixed, even if it's just RTB, back up your SIM and get a new one. So the phone companies aren't keen on random software on their machines, and want some kind of control on what data goes in and out of it. Why isn't there a free usable version of MSN Messenger for non-Windows phones? Why is Opera pretty much the only decent alternative (and indeed often main) web browser for smartphones? One is because the phone companies believe IM bites into their call revenue in an unbalanced way, the other is because the web experience is potentially bandwidth-intensive and can't be guaranteed on a handset, despite what Apple thinks.

The G1 business model has been dictated by the success of the iPhone. Remember that Google weren't going to create a phone at first, but have probably been forced to by the reluctance of the phone companies to open their architecture. It came as no surprise to me that it was HTC who have picked it up because they are seemingly trying to find an alternative to Windows Mobile, but they will have required concessions, the FCC will have required concessions, there will have been concessions required for CE certification and no doubt T-Mobile will have had their say too. So a 'killswitch' is the response to a bunch of concessions for every party involved. It could be something as simple as the revocation of the API key, which Google use everywhere, and really, if you downloaded an app that calls Madagascar every 10 minutes, who would you be blaming?

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Calm Down, Take off the Tin Foil Hat

Since its in the Market Place EULA its clearly one of the Market Place's terms and not Android's. I think its fair enough Google wants to be able to kill apps their service has installed on the device. Clearly its to be used in case someone sneaks something unfriendly in to the market place and avert the PR storm that would surely ensue if they did nothing about it.

This is no different form Apple's position with the iPhones App Store, with the big exception that you can only use the Apps Store to get Apps on your iPhone (unless you are an enterprise willing to pay). Where as with Android you can add apps any way you like, there's no restrictions. So if Google were to throw the Kill Switch on something you like, you can always get it without using the Market Place.

Once Google releases the source to Android I am sure people will tear it apart looking for this sort of stuff. Of course if its part of the Market Place code they might not be able to see it, as it appears Google isn't going to be releasing source to its services apps.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Chris

Do you think you could then tell the FSF to stop punting the Freerunner as a viable alternative to the iPhone on their site?

Freerunner's hardware (emphasis on hardware) needs radically changing, not just the software... I just don't think OpenMoko has much chance until it throws the design out and goes back to the drawing board. At the moment you can't even use the stylus on the boundaries of the touchscreen due to the poor bezel design.

Then again, that'll put OpenMoko even further behind (not even basic 3G connectivity confirmed for the GTA04 phone)...

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Paris Hilton

I thought this was all open source...

Why not simply remove the offensive code? Or is Google using a bastardized definition of open source which does not allow the right to modify it?

PH, because I'm clueless

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@adnim

"I can understand the Google position on this, if anyone can distribute any applications they like the device is ripe for abuse"

Hm? That was funny! The device can be considered a computer. Would you like to use a computer that doesn't let you install some programs or that de-install them without your consent? Who owns the device? Has Nokia or any other vendor made anything similar? Apple and Android are going too far, they do not own the devices they sell and they must not control them/configure them to call home

"I was considering Android purely because I thought I would have control over a handset that I purchased. Open source, no hidden nastiness has to be a good thing. It is now tainted."

Like with Neo Freerunner?

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Jobs Horns

Military requirement probably

Military totally fears the flash mob, silently receiving instructions to instantly mobilize.

This kill switch is almost a requirement. Maybe is required.

I like the notion that it too can be hacked -- cell phone wielding army against cell phone wielding army/

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Linux

@pete

"A lot of this is based on the fact that M$'s products are far more popular."

hahaha....

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TJ
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I'm sorry

Here I am thinking I own something I buy. Huh.

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Pirate

Call me idiot, but...

Android not open source it is just an open platform (embrace, extend, get booted from?)

After I've seen the some 700 pics from a German G1 thingy - I am not surprised for what Google published. You need a Google Account to even use the god damn phone! I bet soon there will be Google Phone Manager BETA. Featuring Call History, Short Message History, Camera Shot History, Your Recent Barcode Bookmarks, All your GPS data history so you'll never forgett where you walked in with your Google phone. I bet you'll get Ad's served while you are shopping xXx rated goods. That would be hilarious. Maybe even the phone will alert you if some other privacy ignoring nerd is near you for a chat.

This invasive form of Apple and Google should be stopped, before we do every micropayment with one of them. Because if its going to be picked up big time, you soon won't be able to pay with real anonymous money at your favorite stores.

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