June 24, 2010 | by Andrew Kameka
Google has announced that the company has used its little-known remote kill function that allows it to uninstall apps from Android devices. On the Google developer blog, Rich Cannings explained that Google has removed two applications by a research team that “intentionally misrepresented their purpose in order to encourage user downloads.” The app was not malicious and did not have access to private user data.
Researchers voluntarily removed the app, but Google still elected to remove it from users who had yet to uninstall the “practically useless” application. Google was able to remotely uninstall the application and send a notification to affected users.
There’s been quite a bit of talk about security threats on Android, notably a report yesterday claiming that 20% of Android apps pose a threat. However, as staff writer Jorge Parrales noted, the security firm’s report was somewhat misleading (and they just happened to sell the fix for the security threat; how convenient).
Google’s use of the application removal shows that in the event that a malicious application is actually discovered in Android, it can quickly stop potential threats from spreading. If users are smart enough to install apps only from trusted sources and actually read the permission requests when installing, they should be fine.
This remote removal functionality — along with Android’s unique Application Sandbox and Permissions model, Over-The-Air update system, centralized Market, developer registrations, user-submitted ratings, and application flagging — provides a powerful security advantage to help protect Android users in our open environment. – Rich Cannings