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Google Remotely Nukes Apps From Android Phones 509

Posted by timothy
from the probably-not-ones-you'd-want-to-hang-on-to dept.
itwbennett writes "Google disclosed in a blog post on Thursday that it remotely removed two applications from Android phones that ran contrary to the terms of the Android Market. From the post: '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 — or system resources beyond permission.INTERNET. As the applications were practically useless, most users uninstalled the applications shortly after downloading them. 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.' The blog post comes a day after security vendor SMobile Systems published a report saying that 20% of Android apps provide access to sensitive information." Update: 06/25 16:44 GMT by S : Clarified last sentence, which incorrectly suggested that 20% of Android apps were malicious. According to the report (PDF, which we discussed recently), "a majority of these applications were developed with the best of intentions and the user data will likely not be compromised.
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Google Remotely Nukes Apps From Android Phones

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  • oh noes! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Random2 (1412773) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:08AM (#32688794) Journal

    They removed an app that violated the terms of service.

    Seriously, stop with the fear mongering. Although I trust google as far as I can throw their data centers, citing false reports and spreading misinformation is just stupid.

    Also, as pointed out in the previous article, those 'exposing' apps can only take what information you expressly give them. Thus it is not news.

    • Re:oh noes! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:13AM (#32688824)

      No, they deleted it FROM MY TELEPHONE. Not stopped selling it in their store, not rejected it in the review process, not sent me an email telling me that there was something wrong with the app and maybe I might want to delete it. THEY DELETED IT FROM MY TELEPHONE.

      Without asking me.

      I thought I could run any app I wanted? That is what you people told me.

      And 20% malicious apps? As if there weren't enough problems getting iphone 4s as it is....

      • Re:oh noes! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mmurphy000 (556983) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:31AM (#32688964)

        Without asking me.

        They asked you in the Terms of Service you agreed to when you used the Android Market for the first time.

        I thought I could run any app I wanted? That is what you people told me.

        You do not have to get your apps through the Android Market. Anything you install outside of the Market is your responsibility.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rolfwind (528248)

          They asked you in the Terms of Service you agreed to when you used the Android Market for the first time.

          AT&T asked for my 1st born and 10 years indentured servitude in their TOS. It was 900 pages so I didn't read it. Oh well, I guess that makes it right and okay then.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by geekoid (135745)

            Argument from the extremes is a logical fallacy. As is comparing removing a malicious app to taking your children.

            However, if it's to long to read, don't sign it.

        • Re:oh noes! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:05AM (#32689282) Homepage Journal

          You do not have to get your apps through the Android Market.

          AT&T routinely removes [pcworld.com] the checkbox to enable software from "Unknown sources" from its Android phones' firmware.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Snaller (147050)

          "They asked you in the Terms of Service you agreed to when you used the Android Market for the first time."

          Don't be an idiot. They KNOW - and YOU KNOW - that nobody reads that. That's to keep their backs clear in the case of a legal battle - it does not absolve them of being amoral and on the way to evil.

          "You do not have to get your apps through the Android Market. Anything you install outside of the Market is your responsibility."

          Right until we find some other small print which allows them to control that

      • Re:oh noes! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ClaraBow (212734) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:33AM (#32688990)
        This is something that Apple has never done! I still have the NetShare app on my iphone and it is still working with iOS4. Even though it breaks Apple's term of service, Apple has never done anything to break the App!
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Culture20 (968837)
          Agreed. I still have the original phonesaber app. Apple isn't _this_ evil; this is a blundering destructive evil. Apple is more of a practical, plotting evil.
      • Re:oh noes! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mcvos (645701) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:39AM (#32689034)

        No, they deleted it FROM MY TELEPHONE. Not stopped selling it in their store, not rejected it in the review process, not sent me an email telling me that there was something wrong with the app and maybe I might want to delete it. THEY DELETED IT FROM MY TELEPHONE.

        That's exactly it. I applaud Google for removing a useless and deceptive app from their marketplace, but they should keep their fucking hands off my phone! I don't even want them to have the ability to remove stuff from my phone without my knowledge. Send me an email, send me some kind of alert on Android, make it very easy for me to remove it. All of that would have been fantastic. But removing stuff from my phone without asking me crosses a line that should not be crossed.

      • Re:oh noes! (Score:4, Informative)

        by msauve (701917) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:58AM (#32689222)
        Stop being disingenuous, they did it with prior notice, and with your permission.

        Android Market TOS [google.com]

        2.4 From time to time, Google may discover a Product on the Market that violates the Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement or other legal agreements, laws, regulations or policies. You agree that in such an instance Google retains the right to remotely remove those applications from your Device at its sole discretion.

        Furthermore, having done it, they informed you.

        From Google's blog [blogspot.com]:

        If an application is removed in this way, users will receive a notification on their phone.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Snaller (147050)

          "Stop being disingenuous, they did it with prior notice, and with your permission."

          No. You know, and they KNOW that nobody reads that. Its to avoid lawsuits, it is not something people read - people have an expectation, and they didn't expect that google would turn big bad amoral creep and screw them like this.

          "Furthermore, having done it, they informed you."

          Who cares, that's after the fact. They should NOT have the ability, the "agreement" should be changed right now, and the next version of Android should

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by msauve (701917)
            "You know, and they KNOW that nobody reads that."

            Well, to use your argument, you KNOW that nobody had any use for the app-which-did-nothing which Google removed. So, what's the fuss?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by TomXP411 (860000)

            Who cares, that's after the fact. They should NOT have the ability, the "agreement" should be changed right now, and the next version of Android should have this censor ability removed.

            I CARE. I want that ability there. If an app has the potential to harm me or my family financially or damage my phone, I want it gone.

            If Google only warned people, How many people would not get the warning until it's too late? How many would even do anything about it. Heck, one person I know didn't even realize what the notif

        • Re:oh noes! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Friday June 25, 2010 @12:08PM (#32691778) Homepage

          Stop being disingenuous, they did it with prior notice, and with your permission.

          It seems to me you're the one who's being disingenuous. While they do give notice of their "right to remotely remove" certain applications from people's devices, they gave no prior notice with respect to the particular application being removed and obtained no explicit permission for such removal. It's all hidden away in the terms of service, which most people never read and which people are presumed to have agreed to merely on the basis of their use of the service.

      • Re:oh noes! (Score:4, Informative)

        by DrXym (126579) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:14AM (#32689402)
        I thought I could run any app I wanted? That is what you people told me.

        You can run any app you want. Just don't get it from the marketplace or you will be subject to the T&Cs of the marketplace.

        And 20% malicious apps? As if there weren't enough problems getting iphone 4s as it is....

        That figure refers to apps that ask for permissions they don't need, not malicious apps. Android has a finegrained permission model and some apps ask for more things than they require, things that could potentially be used for malicious purposes. Personally I think the model is sound but the implementation could do with more safeguards, possibly something akin to UAC in Windows for certain operations so that the user is always aware of what apps are doing.

    • by Moraelin (679338) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:14AM (#32688836) Journal

      I dunno, wasn't the hype that Android is all open and based on Linux, and _totally_ unlike the iron grip that Steve Jobs has on the iPhone?

      And weren't most of us ranting about how even DRM and "Trusted Computing" are bad because someone else gets to decide what you can or can't run on your computer? When did _that_ become good if it's Google doing it?

      • by bemymonkey (1244086) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:20AM (#32688876)

        Android is, for consumers, anything but open. We're still stuck waiting on ROM releases from manufacturers who don't care about supporting their old devices, even though the new devices are internally more or less the same...

        It's a pocket-sized computer, so why don't we have pocket-sized operating systems instead of glorified firmware on them?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Enry (630)

          There's plenty of unofficial ROMs you can install that have the additional functionality. In that way, it's more open than most other phones on the market.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AHuxley (892839)
          Anything but open is true, think of Android as Microsoft's reimagining of Linux with a $699 2 year plan.
        • Android is, for consumers, anything but open. We're still stuck waiting on ROM releases from manufacturers who don't care about supporting their old devices, even though the new devices are internally more or less the same...

          No, you're not. [cyanogenmod.com]

          It's a pocket-sized computer, so why don't we have pocket-sized operating systems instead of glorified firmware on them?

          Well, that's because it has the same operating system that runs most of the world's supercomputers [itwire.com] on it. For heaven's sake, what more do you want?

        • by Timmmm (636430) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:49AM (#32689118)

          It's a pocket-sized computer, so why don't we have pocket-sized operating systems instead of glorified firmware on them?

          Two reasons:

          1. Drivers. Many are still closed source.
          2. The baseband image (i.e. the bit that talks to the mobile network). This is *always* closed source, and there's no way manufacturers are going to release the documentation for it...

          Apparently Google are going to try to separate the UI from the base system better in future so upgrades will be easier. I'll believe it when I see it though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dpolak (711584)
        Open source and having safeguards are 2 different things.

        If you want to root your phone and make a virus on it to steal your own data, go for it.

        If you post it as an app in the marketplace and misrepresent it, plus the app is malicious then any responsible company needs to be able to protect their customers and their business.

        I agree with the fact that they have this ability, and applaud them for using it on this. It puts out a warning shot to others not to do the same thing.

        As for personal data and
        • by LordAndrewSama (1216602) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:01AM (#32689252)
          I agree with "needs to be able to protect their customers and their business" and disagree with "did something to my goddamn phone without my express permission".

          How about a compromise? A notification that says "WARNING - This App is malicious, we recommend you remove it. [Uninstall App] [Cancel]"

          Protecting their users without having the ability to remotely alter my phone without my permission. win-win.
      • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:28AM (#32688940)

        If the application had been downloaded and installed outwith the Android Market, which is an option on Androi,d then Google could not have done this, so yes, you have that freedom.

      • by MORB (793798) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:40AM (#32689042)

        Google has a lot of control on the android market, true. But unlike the iphone it is not the exclusive way to distribute apps.

        You can install a .apk (android aplication package) from any source. Web, email, or tossing it on your sd card through usb.
        Setting up a third party app store for android as tightly integrated as android market is also perfectly possible.

        So essentially yes, you can do whatever you want. It also means that google have to keep playing fair with android market if they want to avoid people defecting to third party app stores.

      • by AC-x (735297)

        The difference is with Android you can still install apps from outside the market, which google has no power over. With the iPhone the only way to install apps from outside the app store is to hack the phone.

    • Re:oh noes! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:22AM (#32688892)
      This is exactly the same as the Kindle 1984 issue, and it most certainly is news - Google removed an installed app from an end user phone without their permission, and that is a bad thing regardless of why they did it.

      If the app violated the terms of service, then Google should have ceased to supply it (if the author hadn't removed it first), but they should most certainly not have altered an installed application.
      • Re:oh noes! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Oliver Wendell Jones (158103) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:35AM (#32689006)
        This is exactly the same as the Kindle 1984 issue

        Uh, No... it's not. The Kindle users with copies of 1984 *paid* for those copies - the apps that were removed were free apps. And, the apps did not do what they had claimed and had a hidden, although non-malicious purpose.

        The only way this would be similar would be if the Kindle copies of 1984 had been free, weren't actually 1984 when you tried to read them, and reported back to the publisher any information that they thought was relevant.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by laffer1 (701823)

          Google should have created a feature to notify/ask the user about removing the application on their phone. There's a big difference between warning someone and just deleting something.

          To me it's irrelevant they were free applications. I don't care if a book or an app are free or I paid $10 for them.. don't delete stuff on my phone or ebook reader.

        • Re:oh noes! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:49AM (#32689110)
          Whether payment was made or not is actually irrelevant as it doesn't alter the ethical, moral or legal consideration in this - Google altered a device it does not own, and has no legal standing to touch.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          Uh, No... it's not. The Kindle users with copies of 1984 *paid* for those copies - the apps that were removed were free apps. And, the apps did not do what they had claimed and had a hidden, although non-malicious purpose.

          I don't think you can call software which does things it does not say it will do "not malware". It's fraud conceived to get the user to run software they did not intend to run, which is malicious whether it seeks to do damage or not.

      • by Timmmm (636430)

        Rubbish. If there's a banking app that also logs your account details, do you think we should leave that on people's phones. (By the way, this has already sort of happened in Android.)

        Granted it *should* at least tell them "This app has been found to be malicious and will be removed."

      • Re:oh noes! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Kijori (897770) <{ward.jake} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:09AM (#32689336)

        Surely the big difference is that Amazon deleted a book that people intended to read. I don't see any potential harm in Google deleting applications that did nothing except trick users into downloading them and then send user data back to the application author.

        If this is what Google intends to use the remote-delete function for then I see it as more akin to antivirus, and most people have no problem with their antivirus program deleting viruses. Those that do can choose not to use antivirus - in this case, not to use the Android Market.

    • by Andy Smith (55346)

      As one of the readers of this web site, I am very interested in this story. Thus, it _is_ news.

      You no like? No read.

  • by somersault (912633) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:08AM (#32688796) Homepage Journal

    security vendor SMobile Systems published a report saying that 20% of Android apps are malicious.

    No, the report said that 20% of apps require access to sensitive data (ie your address book) or functionality to perform their job. You'd think people would have noticed by now if 1 in 5 Android apps were "malicious".

    • by msauve (701917) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:20AM (#32688874)
      Yes, and you'd think that "itwbennett," the submitter would know that, since he is affiliated with itworld (check his home page), the publisher of the linked articles.

      Odd, that although he references a slashdot article from a few days ago, instead of linking to that article, or the article that links to (on CNET), or to the source of the report, or even to the report itself, he links to a rehash on itworld.

      Tagged as a slashvertisement for self-promotion.
    • When you install apps from the market or elsewhere, Android prompts you in advance letting you know of all of the permissions this app requires.

      There is with this at all. It is no different from random app X requiring my root password and prompting for it. If I trust the app and give it up, this is not a security issue.

      This is how you allow apps to have access to these low level permissions, without disallowing them totally, liek Apple in it's walled garden.

      It is why there are so many more in-depth Android apps than there are iPhone ones. You can replace the dialer, replace the address book, etc.

      This company is fear-mongering about nothing to such a degreee that I wonder if they are on Apple's payroll.

    • This. And as I posted yesterday, that "security report" was self-promotion of their "security software".

    • by Fnkmaster (89084)

      Moreover, it was 20% of Android apps require some sort of permission that gives them access to some subset of your personal data or phone functions in order to operate. Only something like 2% required permissions to access phone/contact features, most likely because they are dialer/launcher replacement/address book apps.

      In comparison, on your desktop Windows machine, 100% of apps have access to your filesystem that contains lots of personal data. And all your apps pop up Windows requesting permission to m

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      Yeah, "20% are malicious" is pure and utter FUD.

      "20% of apps might use personal data" just doesn't have the same ring to it, I guess.

    • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:22AM (#32689480)
      As an Apple fanboy who's tired of seeing the anti-Apple sensationalism in other postings (ok, even the blatantly pro-Apple sensationalism is annoying too), allow me to say that the 1-in-5 comment in the summary was absolute FUD. It really would be nice if story submissions were more about the story and less about furthering marketing agendas for/against a given product. I realize we're all passionate about our particular sections of geekdom but this is just getting pathetic. I think it's interesting that Google exercised their orbital nuke option (for a variety of reasons that I'm sure will be discussed in other threads below) but the little addendum to the story was completely irrelevant and served only one purpose - to troll. Would be nice if slashdot editors removed those extra tidbits.
  • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:10AM (#32688808)

    This raises again the question wherever we need to call murder and fire about privacy and "it's my phone don't touch it" kindof thing.

    OTOH, the marketplace is a "trusted content provider" in control and under the responsability of google. In that regard, I think they have the right and obligation to "keep the market clean", for me it would become unacceptable if they start to remove applications who are "breaching vague copyright claims", and take a weak stance or remove applications on nonsene like that.

    If the application would've advertized or mentioned it was "for research purposes", I don't think google should've removed it.

    But it's my phone, and if I want to run malicious software on it, I feel I should be able to do so. But I cannot expect the "marketplace" to hold malicious software because I want that possibility.

    • it's my phone, and if I want to run malicious software on it, I feel I should be able to do so.

      Fair enough.

      If I want to kill those who enable the creation of botnets, I feel I should be able to do so.

      Where do you live? :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ZeroExistenZ (721849)

        Fair enough.
        If I want to kill those who enable the creation of botnets, I feel I should be able to do so.

        I'm a developer, I love to experiment and thinking "outside of the API" and such. It's why I've been extatic with access to opensource smartphones (before Neo1973, think 5 years ago, I was hoping for an affordable wifi-enabled cellphone with decent API to implement VOIP dailing and implement my messaging and email off the GSM grid to cut costs and for coolfactor. Android has brought this to the world.)

    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:41AM (#32689058) Journal
      Can someone please explain to me, who never owned an Android phone, how the hell this kind of thing is possible ? I can understand that App Store is like a debian repository where packages need to be approved to be available and that malicious packages that get erroneously accepted can be removed.

      What I don't understand is how it can remotely removed. By default Android has a backdoor for Google ? Is that true of any version of Android ? Can we remove it from the code (since, unless I am mistaken, Android is OSS) ?

      I'm fine with repositories and security updates, but nuking an applications without asking first is what Steve Jobs does and that Google is not supposed to do. I agree that in the present case, this was for a greater good, but this is not the point. If I buy an Android phone, do I own the damn phone and do I control it or not ?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:51AM (#32689138)

        Enough with the constructive content, focus on rants and inane bitching, or go somewhere else.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Culture20 (968837)

        I'm fine with repositories and security updates, but nuking an applications without asking first is what Steve Jobs does and that Google is not supposed to do.

        I hate iPhone OS policies as much as the next geek (why don't I get an upgrade for security on my original iPhone, even to iOS 3.1.4?), but even Jobs doesn't delete apps from your phone. Any apps once through the store, are yours, lock, stock, and barrel. They may prompt you to upgrade, they may stop selling an app, but they don't delete them.

        What google should be doing is sending these users an email and free SMS letting them know that they "should delete app $FOO because it's potentially dangerous. F

        • by snottgoblin (957976) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:57AM (#32689986)

          I'm fine with repositories and security updates, but nuking an applications without asking first is what Steve Jobs does and that Google is not supposed to do.

          I hate iPhone OS policies as much as the next geek (why don't I get an upgrade for security on my original iPhone, even to iOS 3.1.4?), but even Jobs doesn't delete apps from your phone. Any apps once through the store, are yours, lock, stock, and barrel. They may prompt you to upgrade, they may stop selling an app, but they don't delete them. What google should be doing is sending these users an email and free SMS letting them know that they "should delete app $FOO because it's potentially dangerous. For reference, please see https://google.com/android/press-release/93857293875928.html [google.com]" Maybe some people wanted these apps... like the friends of the security researchers in question.

          Actually the iPhone has the exact same "kill switch" for the exact same purpose. http://www.iphonealley.com/node/2928 [iphonealley.com]

      • by markus_baertschi (259069) <markusNO@SPAMmarkus.org> on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:20AM (#32689456)

        On and Android Phone there is an application called 'Market' this application allow you to browse all applications on the google android market, install the ones you like, uninstall what you don't want any more, etc. In addition this application periodically checks with the server to see if there are new versions of your installed apps and offers to update those.

        I suppose the market did check for the offending apps and found that they had the 'remove' flag set and removed them from the phone.

        If you would have installed the same apps without market (downloading the apk file) the market would not know about them and leave them alone.

        Markus

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rayonic (462789)

        Android Market is more than just an app repository. It is also the installer and uninstaller for those apps (and checks for updates). So the Android Market application itself is what has the permissions to do these things.

      • by mean pun (717227) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:38AM (#32689680)

        I'm fine with repositories and security updates, but nuking an applications without asking first is what Steve Jobs does and that Google is not supposed to do.

        Actually, Apple has never done this until now. Yes, they have the infrastructure to do so, but so far they have never used it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by keithjr (1091829)
        I'm not an expert on the Android platform, but here's my take. Apps downloaded via the Android Market are tied to your Google account. That way, you can move between devices and not have to re-purchase any paid ones, or have to deal with the headaches of re-downloading freebies. So, in that way, you could say that Android has a backdoor to Google.

        That said, you can install apps from non-Market sources by simply checking a box in the Settings. Install the app from any other avenue besides the Market
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mspohr (589790)
        Google controls the Marketplace. If you download an application from Google's Market, they have a responsibility to ensure that the application follows the rules. These applications didn't follow the rules and were deleted.

        If you install your own application from somewhere else, Google has no responsibility and can't delete it so you have control in that case. You own the phone and control it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dixie_Flatline (5077)

      I agree. I agree entirely. I own an iPhone.

      I'd like to stop hearing about how Apple is a terrible corporation because they do a thorough (sometimes overzealous) vetting of the applications that go up on the store before they go there. I'd also like to stop hearing about how because they've laid out a certain set of restrictions (i.e., no porn apps), they're trying to brainwash us. At least they told everyone in advance what they're getting into.

      This is something that Google should have the right to do, and

  • Draconian? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ilovegeorgebush (923173) * on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:10AM (#32688814) Homepage
    Why do they have to have or at least exercise this feature of the ToS?

    Why couldn't they just get a list of those who have it installed (surely they know that?) and then email them? Beats this draconian/big brother approach in my opinion...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by TaoPhoenix (980487)

      Yeah, I chose to reply - someone else can Mod Parent Up.

      This sounds like an Apple move - "the App wasn't malicious but we didn't like it so we nuked it for you."

      Total Slippery Slope - what else can they nuke when the Mafiaa decide "you have a copy of Oh Mickey In Spanish that violates copyright law so we'll nuke it for you."

      • Re:Draconian? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:22AM (#32688890)

        Apple has never removed an App from anyone's phone. They have removed it from the APP Store.... that is a big difference.

      • Total Slippery Slope - what else can they nuke when the Mafiaa decide "you have a copy of Oh Mickey In Spanish that violates copyright law so we'll nuke it for you."

        This article has nothing to do with copyright. Not every article on this site needs to inevitably lead to discussion of copyright.

        This sounds like an Apple move

        That is a good point. It is a step towards the "walled garden" Apple experience, or shows at least a little but of interest, on Google's part, in maintaining the quality of their platform. This app served no useful purpose, and might have set a dangerous precedent for other apps to surreptitiously collect and report user data. The GP's suggestion of emailing affected users,

        • That's why slopes are slippery. Go up a containing level.

          There is little all about ________ remotely nuking _________ because ______ says it violates ______. There's some scary scope in those MadLib blanks. It also is a clear threat - they're demonstrating an extremely dangerous policy capability.

      • This sounds like an Apple move - "the App wasn't malicious but we didn't like it so we nuked it for you."

        You mean other than the fact that Apple has never done this?

      • by delinear (991444)
        Definitely badly handled - how about the next time I restart the app, they just give me a splash screen explaining it's been flagged as... well, I don't know how to describe it since they even claim the app's not malicious, but I guess something along the lines of raising privacy concerns with a link through to a page explaining the issues and an option to allow or uninstall. That doesn't seem a problem - in fact make it a choice of the user when they first use the phone to decide if they want such flagged
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mmurphy000 (556983)
      Mostly because they do not have email addresses of everyone. They have Google accounts, but not everybody who has a Google account for the purposes of Android uses GMail.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Why couldn't they just get a list of those who have it installed (surely they know that?) and then email them? Beats this draconian/big brother approach in my opinion...

      "We're teh GOOGLE. Our motto is 'don't be evil', so by default nothing we do is evil! Evar! Not even removing YOUR app from YOUR phone without your permission. Don't believe us? Just ask our fanbois!"

  • by magamiako1 (1026318) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:22AM (#32688898)
    Just an FYI, even though Apple has some of the most draconian app policies ever--they have never remotely nuked an application from someone's phone. They have taken apps off of the market, but they have never actually removed it from your device. I ran GVMobile for a long time until it stopped properly authenticating, for example.
  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot&keirstead,org> on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:26AM (#32688926) Homepage

    You do not have to use the Market to install apps.

    If Google removes an app you like from the market, or even does a remote-uninstall, you can just re-install it yourself, and it is then un-nukeable.

    The market can only remote-uninstall apps installed via it.

  • Just to clarify; Google nuked two applications that had been distributed via Android Market, which they explicitly reserve the right to do via their Terms Of Service [google.com] (see section 2.4).

    However, if you don't like these terms there is nothing that stops you from downloading applications from alternative sources and installing them on your Android device - there are a number of alternate Android application stores like SlideMe [slashdot.org] and AndAppStore [slashdot.org] for example, not to mention downloading .apk files directly to your phone and installing that way bypassing Android Market altogether.

    Besides, what are they supposed to do if there are malicious applications on Android Market? Pull them and leave affected users with crap on their devices?

    Oh well, I'm perfectly happy with my HTC Magic running Cyanogenmod 5.0.8 downloaded and installed via Clockworkmod ROM Manager, which itself was downloaded from Android Market.

  • ...in its tracks as it tries to delete the targeted applications. Here's how I would like to accomplish my feat, Android being Open Source Software: -

    As Google tries to remove the application from my phone, the phone would be configured to ring n a particular way, send me an email telling me what is going on, then block Google's action.

    Sad thing is that I an no coder/hacker so I have no idea where to start!

  • Do not want (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Andy Smith (55346) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:29AM (#32688954) Homepage

    I don't want this. Not on Android. I specifically bought an Android phone to get away from the Apple control freakery. That was the only reason I wanted Android -- no big brother overseeing. Now I find that Google can throw a remote kill switch?

    Do NOT want.

    Yes I can see the argument that the app killing on this occasion was a Good Thing. But no, really it's a Bad Thing, because it represents the top of a slippery slope.

    Hands off my phone please people who are not me!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lowrydr310 (830514)
      TFA and the blog doesn't mention this, however several comments pointed this out: your apps won't get automatically nuked if you download them from alternate sources or directly install the apk - only apps installed via the android marketplace are subject to this.

      No reason to get alarmed, however the fact that this is possible makes me very cautious about the android marketplace. I understand Google trying to do good, but in this case it's worse than Apple. What happens when 5000 people download an iPhon
  • I'm ok with this (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Genocaust (1031046)
    For those of you complaining about this, please note that it was "per the ToS". Don't like it? Don't use the (Android) software, then. It's a free market -- vote with your money elsewhere. Until this remote nuke feature is used on something I've PAID for, and I'm left without my app or my money, I'm not too bothered by it as, again, I AGREED TO THE TOS.
    • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:39AM (#32689032)

      I think that point is that if Apple did this it wouldn't just be shrugged off. The Android fanbois would be coming out of the wordwork to howl about how Apple is messing with people's phones.

      • I have an Android phone myself, if it adds any credibility to how I feel over this all :).
      • by laffer1 (701823)

        I think the point is that we don't control the software on our phones, tablets, or ebook readers. It's not just a licensing problem anymore, we actually have little say in what gets installed/uninstalled on our mobile computing devices.

        Let's turn this a bit. Imagine you installed Firefox in Windows and Microsoft removed it per their terms of service. (they are trying to rent software these days or put it.. in the cloud). They decided Firefox was out of date and insecure. Poof. If Microsoft (or apple)

      • by FreeUser (11483) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:59AM (#32690028)

        I think that point is that if Apple did this it wouldn't just be shrugged off. The Android fanbois would be coming out of the wordwork to howl about how Apple is messing with people's phones.

        As one who is leaning strongly toward Android and won't buy an Apple iPhone for a number of reasons, some technical, some philosophical, some practical, I have to agree with this.

        Having anything removed or tampered with by any outside agency on hardware I have purchased is unacceptable, full stop. I don't care what ToS conditions are buried forty pages down in the Android App store's click-through screen, in two-point type.

        Google should not get a free pass on this, any more than Apple would, and it's made me reconsider my intended purchase very carefully. Not that I'm about to become an iSlave to Jobs ... but I am equally unwilling to become a gSlave to Google. This kind of unilateral tampering with other people's property, ToS or not, simply should not be condoned or tolerated, whatever their motivation.

  • So, which apps? I've RTFA and it doesn't mention which apps were removed. I also wonder if this is done silently, or if there is some mention in the installer/Android Market that tells you what has happened. Yep, they can do this, and I still trust Google. Yes, they are a big company and have the potential to do nefarious things, but I don't really see it happening.
  • by AHuxley (892839) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:38AM (#32689026) Homepage Journal
    Sony removes Linux, Amazon removes books, MS removes music/Sidekick data issue, Apple watches over software, isp's shape traffic, telcos get a national security letter on domestic phone tapping ect . A search/ad company sucks up data around the world.
    Then they expect the end users to take them seriously.
    Time to think long and hard about any new 'rental' telco device.
    Physical media and a fast desktop computer seem rather wise now.
    Maybe try a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MeeGo [wikipedia.org] supporting device to keep your property backed up and safe from remote interference/incompetence/mistakes.
  • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:51AM (#32689144) Homepage

    When the app is clicked on, it should open a page that says: "Note: Google has determined this app to be malicious / in violation of terms of use. Tap here for a complete explanation. The app has been removed from the store, and running it is not safe. Tap here to safely and permanently remove this app"

  • The blog post comes a day after security vendor SMobile Systems published a report saying that 20% of Android apps are malicious

    Bullshit. The report says that 20% of the apps are capable of collecting information that could be misused but that most collecting it are doing it for well-intentioned reasons.

  • by rclandrum (870572) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:28AM (#32689542) Homepage

    I gotta admit, I am laughing my ass off. After a year of listening to Slashdotters slam Apple for it's overly restrictive App store policies (Waaaa - I can't run any piece of crap app I want - waaaaa), it is like a breath of fresh air to see a *real* big brother operation in action. Google can remotely yank apps directly off that "completely open" phone? Priceless.

    The days of user-managed consumer computing devices is just about over. The future is stringently managed devices and no unapproved applications. Why? The device manufacturers must ensure a seamless user experience - any hiccup in either hardware or application just helps sink a product in this highly competitive space. And OS manufacturers (not to mention the users) are fed up with security breaches and malware - better just to lock it all down, and eliminate the complaints and problems. The vast majority of users have no desire whatsoever to manage anything on their computers - they just want to buy and play the games or run apps that never crash. Keeping up with the latest viruses is something only totally uncool people do anymore.

    The cowboy days are over, folks. The wild, wild west is becoming settled.

  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:58AM (#32690010) Homepage

    Basically, what this is leading to, is that the only way to own a computer is to own not just the hardware and the software, but also the network and the services that run on it. If you don't, you're pwned by the owners who do own these things. It's not enough for hardware and software to be free; the network and services also need to be free and open. Anything other than total and complete freedom opens a backdoor through which all your freedom will eventually leak out, given enough time.

    So, good luck with that. You'll never own everything. It's damn hard just to own the software, let alone the hardware that you purhcased. Forget about ever owning the network or the services; these are things that are inherently communal. Only, there's large corporate superorganisms out there who will dominate any individual or group of consumers.

    And even if you could own it all, that only means that it's possible for, at most, one person to be free. Everyone else is either enslaved, at risk of enslavement, or a non-participant.

    Might as well give up and let them implant slave chips in the back of our heads.

  • by khchung (462899) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:02AM (#32690068) Journal

    Wow, Google pulled an Amazon here, remotely DELETED an app from users' phone... and half of the posts here are OK with it?!

    Where's the outrage? Isn't the big ADVANTAGE of Android is that it is YOUR phone, which you CONTROL, and that YOU decide what to put on it? Now Google, not only told you they hold a REMOTE KILL switch, but actually went and DID a remote kill, and wow, half of the posters here are fine with it.

    Amazing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      Wow, Google pulled an Amazon here, remotely DELETED an app from users' phone... and half of the posts here are OK with it?!

      Amazon did it to non-deceptive, paid-for content, without any supporting provision in the TOS under which the content was acquired.

      Google did it for deceptively-labelled, free content, under TOS that permitted exactly the action taken.

      While there might be legitimate reasons to object to the second as well as the first.

      Isn't the big ADVANTAGE of Android is that it is YOUR phone, which yo

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