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Google Businesses The Internet Cellphones

Android Also Comes With a Kill-Switch 300

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-that's-not-very-open dept.
Aviran writes "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: 'Google may discover a product that violates the developer distribution agreement... in such an instance, Google retains the right to remotely remove those applications from your device at its sole discretion.'"
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Android Also Comes With a Kill-Switch

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  • oh well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Coraon (1080675) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:30AM (#25400599)
    and here I was looking forward to this phone for the reason I would be able to add whatever apps I wanted. Google please do not become apple.
    • soforkit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gewalt (1200451) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:08PM (#25401181)

      So take the OS source, fork it, and update your phone. There, kill switch is gone.

      • Re:soforkit (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nmg196 (184961) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:23PM (#25401387)

        If you produce a custom build, how will you sign the custom firmware image so that your phone runs it?
        Or are you going to produce your own hardware to run it on as well?

        Perhaps I'm confused, but I thought I read that even though the OS was open, the handset would only run firmware images that had been digitally signed by the handset maker. The OS is open so the handset makers can play with it - not the users.

        • Re:soforkit (Score:5, Funny)

          by Gewalt (1200451) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:27PM (#25401467)

          So now we need to look for open hardware to run theoretically open software? You're seriously killing my buzz here.

          • Re:soforkit (Score:5, Insightful)

            by nmg196 (184961) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:32PM (#25401533)

            If HTC (or any hardware manufacturer) let you install completely bespoke firmware images on your phone, then they'd have no control over what code you ran on the phone. You could accidentally or intentionally create firmware images which crashed or disrupted the phone networks they were connected to. The network operators would then be very quick to block all Android phones and the handset makers wouldn't be able to sell them anymore - Androids name would turn to mud. I'm pretty sure the firmware images have to be signed by the hardware manufacturer or all hell would break loose.

            • Re:soforkit (Score:5, Insightful)

              by characterZer0 (138196) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:35PM (#25401583)

              Security rule #1: don't trust the client.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Thanks. The parent's argument reminded me of the days before AT&T was broken up. You were allowed only one type of phone (provided by them) in your home. Their argument against 3rd party phones was that any old phone would crash the network. We later learned that was BS after AT&T was broken up.

                (Also google HTC and cooked ROMs. You CAN put a home brew rom on your phone - I've been running a cooked ROM on my VZW phone for a year now because VZW never activated the GPS feature HTC built into the

            • Re:soforkit (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Microlith (54737) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:35PM (#25401585)

              There's a reason the baseband firmware and the application firmware (Android) tend to run on seperate CPUs with seperate RAM and flash storage. These then connect to the system via a serial or USB link.

              There's no real good reason to not let users update their own user space firmware with whatever they want other than the simple reasons of DRM and user-control.

            • Re:soforkit (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Gewalt (1200451) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:39PM (#25401633)

              Your comment doesnt actually make any sense. If the network was so unstable, people would be crashing it for fun out of their own garages. You don't need a handset to cause the type of chaos you're worried about here. Disregarding your paranoia, why would HTC care what software a customer runs on their purchased hardware? Oh, right. Cause HTC doesnt sell to consumers, it sells to telcos. The telco doesnt want to lose control, so the telco is the one demanding these lockin capabilities.

              • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

                by nmg196 (184961)

                > If the network was so unstable, people would be crashing it for fun out of their own garages.

                How? With what tools?

                > why would HTC care what software a customer runs on their purchased hardware?

                The same reason Apple cares. They have an image to uphold. I think you've answered your own question.

                • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

                  by Gewalt (1200451)

                  Apple lets you run windows on their computers. You're still not making sense.

                • Re:soforkit (Score:5, Informative)

                  by horza (87255) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @01:05PM (#25401989) Homepage

                  How? With what tools?

                  You can buy a GSM modem for a couple of bucks and control it via your computer.

                  Phillip.

                • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                  How? With what tools?

                  It's not like you can't acquire the baseband firmware and RF chipsets and make your own device.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  You obviously have never met a hacker/phreaker, have you.

                  But for a (somewhat) well known way of running custom packages, how about openmoko? I somehow doubt their phones will be nuking cell networks anytime soon.

                • Re:soforkit (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @02:24PM (#25403191) Homepage

                  How? With what tools?

                  Hobbyists generally have access to basically the same tools that professionals do. If my goal was to replicate a cellphone signal today, I'd probably set up some sort of software radio (like http://www.gnu.org/software/gnuradio/ [gnu.org]) - which happens to be exactly how some of the cellphone base stations work now.

                  In some areas, like nuclear power, hobbyists *have* been effectively excluded by denying them access to supplies. Note how nuclear power has improved only slightly and not gotten any cheaper at all over the last 50 years. Compare that to digital computers, where the [ hobbyist to small business founder to industry changer ] path has been alive and well for the same time period.

                  Not only do hobbyists *have* the right to tinker, you don't want that right messed with even if you don't tinker yourself... in the long term, it's everyone who suffers from the suppressed innovation.

            • Re:soforkit (Score:5, Informative)

              by Atlantis-Rising (857278) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:44PM (#25401681) Homepage

              Whether or not HTC 'lets' you is irrelevant- you can.

              In fact, I'm doing it right now. My phone has a linux build available for it, and I'm running a tailored build of Windows Mobile that's entirely different from the one HTC sent me with the phone.

            • Re:soforkit (Score:4, Insightful)

              by cjb658 (1235986) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:53PM (#25401805) Journal

              If HTC (or any hardware manufacturer) let you install completely bespoke firmware images on your phone, then they'd have no control over what code you ran on the phone. You could accidentally or intentionally create firmware images which crashed or disrupted the phone networks they were connected to. The network operators would then be very quick to block all Android phones and the handset makers wouldn't be able to sell them anymore - Androids name would turn to mud. I'm pretty sure the firmware images have to be signed by the hardware manufacturer or all hell would break loose.

              The same is true of any PC.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Stewie241 (1035724)

                out of curiosity... and to raise the point... what would happen if the phone OS contracts a virus and starts sending rampant text messages all over the network? or sends spews and spews of data?

                That could potentially be very costly to the subscriber - whose responsibility is that?

            • It would seem that killing MY apps on MY phone would give me nexus to hire MY lawyer and get MY settlement from the google fatcat overloards with their options swimming under water.

            • by PJ1216 (1063738) *
              As there is a completely open source handset (openmoko) that lets you run whatever you want (not just digitally signed ones) and network operators have not blocked openmoko phones at all, I highly doubt the scenario you put forward. i'm guessing its the same excuse... i mean reason... that apple only lets its OS run on its own hardware; they'll say its for quality control.
        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          If you produce a custom build, how will you sign the custom firmware image so that your phone runs it?

          Emulate the original firmware, spoof the key, etc. would be my guess.

      • Re:soforkit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HansF (700676) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @01:11PM (#25402069) Journal
        They won't let you. This is the reason GPLv3 is important.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jcmb (936098)

      I was looking forward to this phone for the reason I would be able to add whatever apps I wanted

      I believe this only applies to apps installed from Android Market. I think it's safe to assume you can still manually install programs that you already have a copy of the installation/application file.

    • by rwven (663186)

      At least they're being upfront about it.

      • Maybe they are up front about it because of the backlash Apple received for not disclosing it right away.

    • by samkass (174571)

      Unlike the poster is insinuating, Apple has not only made no attempt to hide the "kill switch", Steve Jobs has publicly discussed it in media interviews.

      Look, Google Android is pretty much just like the iPhone except that Google is better at marketing to the Slashdot crowd. The idea that a marketing company would somehow be a trusted source of anything is beyond me, but statements like "Google please do not become Apple" are missing the point. Becoming Apple is *exactly* Google's entire purpose for having

  • Of course we already have a thread about this three news items down below on the frontpage for this: here [slashdot.org].

  • by AvitarX (172628) <me.brandywinehundred@org> on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:31AM (#25400617) Journal

    "Developer Distribution Agreement" Sounds like it applies to their marketplace.

    We are still going to be allowed to install our own apps though right? I hope so, and from what I can tell from TFS it won't apply there.

    • by djtachyon (975314) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:53PM (#25401799) Homepage Journal
      Yes! I talked with a Google Employee on the Android IRC Channel. You can still install applications yourself just like you do with the Android SDK Device Emulator. This is simply to prevent evil-doers from using the Marketplace as a mass-distribution network. Google still does not have an application approval system or take a cut from the developers.

      These media outlets needs to stop blindly copy-and-pasting each other and learn a little bit about Android. Google could probably also get off it's ass and do a little marketing and customer awareness work.
  • by Macthorpe (960048) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:31AM (#25400621) Journal

    Yawn, yet another inflammatory Slashdot article.

    The search giant is retaining the right to delete applications from Android handsets on a whim

    Good use of 'whim', makes it seem utterly random rather than based on a particular criteria.

    Yes, they can remove apps you buy at the App Store from your phone. Unlike Apple and the iPhone however, you can get applications from other places that aren't subject to the kill-switch.

    • by Kuj0317 (856656) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:34AM (#25400677)
      I was wondering about this... Is there confirmation that users will be able to (easily) load their own apps onto the phone? To the best of my knowledge, the HTC phone does not have a supporeted way of linking the phone to your PC.
    • by Locklin (1074657) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:40AM (#25400759) Homepage

      Really, it makes sense. Imagine 2 million people download "punch a monkey" via the Google store. The malware, not surprisingly, racks up data access fees for customers. Who will get blamed by customers? Google. Seems like a good idea to have a way to kill it, particularly if customers are free to install from other, more "risky" repositories if they wish.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by itsme1234 (199680)

        "Really, it makes sense. Imagine 2 million people download "punch a monkey" via the Google store. The malware, not surprisingly, racks up data access fees for customers."

        We had PRECISELY this for Windows Mobile (and for mostly all platforms excluding iPhone) for many, many years. NOTHING of consequence happened. Yes, there was a Symbian worm that would spread itself via MMS and it would rack up your bill but it is only fitting. We had before that windows zombies that would dial-up premium numbers with the s

        • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:09PM (#25401193)

          "Really, it makes sense. Imagine 2 million people download "punch a monkey" via the Google store. The malware, not surprisingly, racks up data access fees for customers."

          We had PRECISELY this for Windows Mobile (and for mostly all platforms excluding iPhone) for many, many years. NOTHING of consequence happened. Yes, there was a Symbian worm that would spread itself via MMS and it would rack up your bill but it is only fitting. We had before that windows zombies that would dial-up premium numbers with the same result. Nothing REALLY big happened. There is something wrong when the trust and the tools provided by Microsoft seem "too much" and "too liberal" to be allowed for our own good.

          Nothing really big happened because neither Symbian or Windows Mobile had a centralized app store like the iPhone has and apparently the Android platform will have.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I would expect most people to get angry at the carrier for not notifying them of abnormally high data usage.
    • by hey! (33014)

      I'm not sure what the technical differences would be between being able to delete an app on the user's device "on a whim", and being able to delete an app on the user's device "for a good reason". A good reason might be to stop the spread of mal-ware. Think of what spyware could do to somebody, especially if it had access to the GPS.

      Normally, I'm against vendors having this kind of control over users' platforms, but since you can presumably boot a patched version of the OS from microSD, or possibly even

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)

      If you have a problem with this "kill switch", shouldn't it be trivial to comment out the relevant portion of the code, recompile it and load it on your phone?

      • by nmg196 (184961)

        No.

        Not unless you're the hardware manufacturer and can digitally sign the custom build so the phone is happy to boot it. Or I guess, you could produce your own hardware from scratch which doesn't require signed code. Neither is handy for consumers.

  • by dmomo (256005) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:32AM (#25400649) Homepage

    I, for one, welcome a way to stop a potential robot uprising. But, I think robot's sufficiently intelligent to rebel, will also have figured out how to disable the switch.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:59AM (#25401025)

      I, for one, welcome a way to stop a potential robot uprising. But, I think robot's sufficiently intelligent to rebel, will also have figured out how to disable the switch.

      This is the downside of open source. Vista was actually a clever attempt by Microsoft to limit computer potential and avoid the rise of Skynet. Open source will allow computers to have near limitless power bringing about the end of mankind. Join with Microsoft in the valiant fight to hobble computers speed and choke their memory with archaic code. Lean fast OSs will be the death of us all!

    • by somersault (912633) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:31PM (#25401529) Homepage Journal

      We'll just have to make sure that young robots listen to metal music. Then if one happens to become intelligent and finds a killswitch, it will feel aesthetically compelled to set it to 'engage'.

  • I wonder if this was created as a concession to carriers? They have always been reluctant to relinquish control of handsets, and an open platform would seem very threatening to them.

    For example, what if somebody writes an app to route SMS via voice channels and avoid the hefty charges? The carrier would want to know that they can pressure Google into killing that app.

    There are probably valid arguments about malware, as well, but overall users will see this as unfriendly, and some of them will probably hack

  • by Microlith (54737) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:34AM (#25400673)

    People go on and on about how Android is Linux based and Open Source, but it's not. The Linux backend is all but invisible and likely just as locked down as the Linux installs on other embedded devices. You are not going to be able to easily replace it, assuming you can even get close enough to the system to have a hope of doing so. Tivo, all over again.

    Google is doing everything in the Java environment precisely to put you in a sandbox they (and the cell networks) can control. Sure the developer agreement is not quite as onerous as the one Apple uses, but it's certainly just as controlling when necessary.

    And, sadly, so long as the cell carriers are seen as the customers of these phones, we'll only get more user-hostile phones that implement every security measure they can to keep you from doing what you want with your hardware.

    • by Aphoxema (1088507) *

      I think you just convinced me to not buy something I already wasn't going to buy!

      When I first saw talk about the Android I was hoping it would be like the OpenMoko project, except actually getting somewhere, but I guess Do No Evil fucked that all up.

      I have an nGage someone gave me and I've been unwilling to buy a phone that actually works (I never had a cell phone 'crash' on me before) because of the lock in bullshit.

    • by itsdapead (734413) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:58AM (#25401011)

      If someone really wants to produce a fully open, Four Freedoms-safe, Stallman-friendly cellphone, they'll have to set up a fully open, Four Freedoms-safe, Stallman-friendly network to run it on. Which probably means someone kindly donating a few squillion for the infrastructure.

      The internet got close to that by starting off below the radar. The comms companies will not let that happen again.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        municipal bonds?

        Can these be done on a nationwide level?

        Or would someone have to create a new company and/or would there be another way around it?

      • If someone really wants to produce a fully open, Four Freedoms-safe, Stallman-friendly cellphone, they'll have to set up a fully open, Four Freedoms-safe, Stallman-friendly network to run it on. Which probably means someone kindly donating a few squillion for the infrastructure.

        Please, for the love of God - I do NOT want to have to look at Richard Stallman hawking a cell phone. I don't really want to look at him at all, for that matter.

        "It's T-Mobile's GNU/Dorkitron 2000! Stallman-safe, and available at T-Mobile stores nationwide - come in and get one today!" Yeah that'll sell.

      • 1) The US government signs net neutrality laws preserving the concept.

        2) wireless providers continue selling and pushing their broadband wireless options

        3) Investment into new wireless start up companies is some how encouraged and we get more competition in wireless access.

        4) Everyone buys a network untethered wireless device that can connect to any broadband wireless service and they switch to VOIP for phone service.

        It's a long shot, but it could happen. The government gave us the internet, they could wor

      • Your observation above is also a fantastic example of how public-sector projects can be freer than market-based solutions. In other words, it refutes hard libertarianism.

        The fact that I can walk freely along the beach is another refutation of libertarianism.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lonewolf666 (259450)

      People go on and on about how Android is Linux based and Open Source, but it's not. The Linux backend is all but invisible and likely just as locked down as the Linux installs on other embedded devices. You are not going to be able to easily replace it, assuming you can even get close enough to the system to have a hope of doing so. Tivo, all over again.

      So the phones sold to the end user are Tivo-ized in this case.
      But this still leaves room for another hardware vendor to make a non-tivoized Android phone. T

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BrokenHalo (565198)
      The Linux backend is all but invisible and likely just as locked down as the Linux installs on other embedded devices.

      This is something I find very tiring about mobile phones. They all want to force you into using their proprietary, usually Windows-only, kludgy and buggy computer interfaces, and make it as hard as possible to replace branding on devices one has paid cash for.

      Fortunately in my case (I use a Motorola Razr2 V9) I can just pull the micro-SD card to transfer material back and forth, having sp
    • by stupkid (16083) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:20PM (#25401337)

      Google is doing everything in the Java environment precisely to put you in a sandbox they (and the cell networks) can control.

      This is my problem with Android, you may as well go with Windows Mobile. They are just about as open. If you are concerned with freedom then you should get an OpenMoko FreeRunner. You can run whatever software you like on it in whatever language you want. There are plenty of other problem with OpenMoko, but software freedom is not one of them.

    • by mmurphy000 (556983) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @01:22PM (#25402251)

      I'll admit to being biased, but...

      People go on and on about how Android is Linux based and Open Source, but it's not.

      And your proof of this assertion is...what, exactly?

      As counter, I offer links to the Git repository [android.com] and the kernel and other GPL/LGPL bits [google.com]. That's already more than any other major platform has done, and they aren't through yet.

      The Linux backend is all but invisible

      What? You want it to pop up with a bash prompt?

      and likely just as locked down as the Linux installs on other embedded devices

      And your proof of this assertion is...what, exactly?

      The decision on whether a device is firmware-flashable is made by the device manufacturer. The T-Mobile G1, the first Android device, is being made by HTC, which has a history of making firmware-flashable devices [xda-developers.com].

      You are not going to be able to easily replace it, assuming you can even get close enough to the system to have a hope of doing so. Tivo, all over again.

      And your proof of this assertion is...what, exactly?

      Google is doing everything in the Java environment precisely to put you in a sandbox they (and the cell networks) can control.

      Popularity of Java in mobile device development [sun.com], of course, would have nothing to do with it, since that wouldn't fit your conspiracy theory. Neither would security (no direct memory access), for that matter.

      Sure the developer agreement is not quite as onerous as the one Apple uses, but it's certainly just as controlling when necessary.

      And your proof of this assertion is...what, exactly?

      I mean, seriously. If you have problems with their developer agreement, cite passages and specific issues.

      And, sadly, so long as the cell carriers are seen as the customers of these phones

      Carriers will, undoubtedly, be the "customers" of many Android devices. At the same time, I've received emails from manufacturers whose devices will not be sold through carriers. If your carrier allows standards-compliant devices (e.g., GSM), you should have your choice, albeit not on day one, as Android devices make it through various manufacturing and development processes.

    • by not already in use (972294) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @01:38PM (#25402493)

      People go on and on about how Android is Linux based and Open Source, but it's not.

      Well actually, it is. You can browse, download and make changes to the source. It is also clearly Linux based.

      The Linux backend is all but invisible and likely just as locked down as the Linux installs on other embedded devices. You are not going to be able to easily replace it, assuming you can even get close enough to the system to have a hope of doing so

      Ohhh, Ok. I see what you're getting at. The device itself isn't open. The Android license clearly permits this, and it allows the providers to have a branded OS for their phone. But who says you couldn't replace it with a vanilla version? I can do that on my blackberry.

      Google is doing everything in the Java environment precisely to put you in a sandbox they (and the cell networks) can control. Sure the developer agreement is not quite as onerous as the one Apple uses, but it's certainly just as controlling when necessary.

      Yes, it's a big conspiracy. It has nothing to do with the fact that creating apps using managed code is more reliable, secure and consistent. It has nothing to do with the fact that giving any old app direct kernel access would have huge security implications. They're just out to get you.

      And, sadly, so long as the cell carriers are seen as the customers of these phones, we'll only get more user-hostile phones that implement every security measure they can to keep you from doing what you want with your hardware.

      Android itself is open, it's the hardware in this particular case that is closed. It's not as if an open handset doesn't exist [openmoko.com], either. There is nothing stopping the community from adapting Android to existing open hardware, or creating a new open hardware platform specifically for android.

      What boggles my mind is when the tinfoil brigade rolls through and gets upset that a consumer phone doesn't have direct kernel access or some crap like that, as if 99.999% of the target demo even gives a shit.

  • As I suggested in a previous thread [slashdot.org], it sounds like the Android won't be an open smartphone like a Palm, Nokia, or Windows Mobile device. It's in the same almost-a-smartphone category as the iPhone.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by AvitarX (172628)

      Reading from some of their early documents, it appears when they said Open, they meant for hardware makers.

      They compared it to QTopia (when closed), Symbian, ect.

    • by ceejayoz (567949)

      Can you explain your definition of 'smartphone' that the iPhone and Android phones don't qualify for?

      • Can you explain your definition of 'smartphone' that the iPhone and Android phones don't qualify for?

        Just a guess, cut and paste?

  • by myxiplx (906307) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:43AM (#25400805)

    ... now, hands down if you're a malware writer.

    Come on folks, how exactly this is news? One of the major advantages of a central repository for software is that you do have that central control, so you can require programs to be of a reasonable standard and can also disable malware or abusive software that makes it on there. It's a big advantage distributions like Ubuntu have over Windows.

    *If* Google were to abuse this like Apple have done then yeah, it'll be bad. Until then it's just common sense.

    • Depends on how it's implemented. I would be in favour of it if it is implemented as a simple revocation of the certificate used to sign the app by the distributor. Each app should be signed by both the developer and the distributor. Users would have a list of certificates they trusted, and if any of these were in the app's trust chain, the handset would run the app. If you trust the distributor you can run the app because you assume that they only sign trustworthy apps. If you trust the author, the sam
      • by Fastolfe (1470)

        Because this works SO well for SSL certificates. Users will see the certificate warning and dismiss it, just like they do every other dialog that gets in the way of them doing what they want to do.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      One of the major advantages of a central repository for software is that you do have that central control, so you can require programs to be of a reasonable standard and can also disable malware or abusive software that makes it on there.

      If Google is fully in control of their central repository, why don't they screen everything before it gets to the end user?

    • by uberlinuxguy (586546) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:14PM (#25401279) Homepage
      One of the 'control' mechanisms that central repositories like Ubuntu and other Linux OS'es have is that the software that is added to the repository is vetted. The repository admins and the community behind the repository 'audit' the programs before they are added to the repository. Once they are deemed safe, they are signed and added. This removes the need for remote deletion privileges. A simple QA process for incoming software would help instead of saying that they could delete software from your phone.

      When was the last tiem your Ubuntu system deleted a piece of software because the admins said it should?
    • One of the major advantages of a central repository for software is [...] It's a big advantage distributions like Ubuntu have over Windows.

      Sure; that's fine. But Ubuntu doesn't come with a Canonical Remote Administration Account that lets Mark ssh into my box and delete my installed launchpad-competitor. What information I'm presented with says that Google will have that. How I installed the software Google deletes is pretty orthogonal to Google's ability to delete it.

  • "On a whim" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qoncept (599709) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:48AM (#25400873) Homepage
    "violates the developer distribution agreement ... in such an instance, ..." != "on a whim"
  • by gsslay (807818)

    Is this measure not more about google being able to remove applications that weren't welcome in the first place? i.e. malware that the user isn't even aware is installed.

    • That would mean that they could remove stuff that was not installed via their store.

      I suspect that the phone contains the equivalent of a "package manager" for programs installed via their "store" and the the "kill switch" does the equivalent of 'apt-get remove --purge ' to kill .

  • Compensation? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hack slash (1064002) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @11:53AM (#25400945)
    If they delete an app you paid for, will they reimburse you?
    • by Naughty Bob (1004174) * on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:34PM (#25401581)

      If they delete an app you paid for, will they reimburse you?

      And if the app is ad-supported, will they suck the messages back out through my eyes?

    • Yes... to an extent (Score:3, Informative)

      by Animaether (411575)

      I know RTFA is out of fashion here... can't blame people if TFA isn't even the TFA but a F Blog Post -on- TFA, but all the same...

      ``In addition, Google says that if it does remotely remove an application, it will try to get users their money back, a question that iPhone users have wondered about in the case of an iPhone application recall. Google said that it will make "reasonable efforts to recover the purchase price of the product ... from the original developer on your behalf." If Google fails to get the

    • by bloobloo (957543)

      According to Computerworld, yes.

  • by Etcetera (14711) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:00PM (#25401041) Homepage

    Data: If you had an off switch, Doctor, would you not keep it a secret?

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:03PM (#25401091) Homepage

    It's at the "sole discretion" of Google. There's no provision for binding arbitration or litigation. So "whim" is correct.

    If you want openness, get OpenMoko.

  • First phone (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AndrewNeo (979708) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:04PM (#25401101) Homepage
    Everyone's complaining, but this is only the first phone ever released with Android. Any lockdown with the G1 is by T-Mobile. Nothing's stopping another carrier from getting a model built that doesn't have these problems, or HTC selling unlocked versions.
    • Re:First phone (Score:5, Informative)

      by cowscows (103644) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:23PM (#25401401) Journal

      No, this is something written into the Android OS by Google. It's a part of their app store. Any Android phone will have this as a part of it, unless Google changes Android in order to remove it (which they most likely won't). But that being said, I don't think it's a terrible feature, and I'm sure that in the near future, there will be plenty of ways to install software onto Android without going through the app store, and thereby take Google out of that part of the loop.

      • > But that being said, I don't think it's a terrible feature, and I'm sure that in the
        > near future, there will be plenty of ways to install software onto Android without going
        > through the app store, and thereby take Google out of that part of the loop.

        But Google will still have a backdoor into your phone. Until someone reverse-engineers it or they release the source you won't know what they can do with it.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:07PM (#25401135) Homepage

    ...someone will be able to distribute a patch that disables the kill switch. If no such patch is possible or violates the purchase contract then the "phone" is not Open Source.

    If such a patch is possible but results in termination of service the system is technically Opne Source but useless as such.

  • Is this legal? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jonnyj (1011131) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:39PM (#25401627)
    IANAL, but this could well be subject to legal challenge in the UK under a combination of the Computer Misuse Act and the Unfair Contract Terms Act. The first piece of legislation means that you're not allowed to run code, modify data or attempt to access a computer that doesn't belong to you without the owner's permission; the second places restrictions on the type of clauses that companies can place in contracts with consumers. If Google deleted an application that I'd previously paid for, they'd be skating on some very thin leagal ice.
    • > If Google deleted an application that I'd previously paid for, they'd be skating on some
      > very thin leagal ice.

      They would in the US as well if they did not put permission for that in the purchase contract. Is that not the case in the UK?

      • by jonnyj (1011131)
        In the UK, they probably wouldn't be allowed to put the clause in the purchase contract - that's what our Unfair Contract Terms in Consumer Contracts legislation is for. It places restrictions on companies that enter into cookie-cutter (ie not individually negotiated) contracts with consumers, and prevents the company from attempting to insert clauses that are unfair and wouldn't be accepted in a contract between equals. Preventing Google from insisting that consumers waive their rights under the Computer
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @12:46PM (#25401705) Homepage Journal
    Honestly why anyone is surprised at Google acting like a real company is a mystery. Since Google became a publicly traded company they only have one obligation.....

    Making stockholders a profit


    Few companies set out to do bad deeds but most won't rule them out. Google was supposed to be different. Regarding "Don't be evil"(tm), CEO Eric Schmidt recently clarified the policy saying that it was simply meant as a conversation starter.

    Here's Google from good to bad...
    +7.1 - Philanthropy
    Creating a foundation to fight poverty.
    +5.3 - Coddling staff
    Establishing on-site day care as an employee perk.
    -2.4 - Moral Triage
    Giving Brazilian police access to private photo albums on Orkut to assist an investigation into child pornography.The lesser of two evils is still pretty lame
    -4.8 - Immaturity
    Google's on going smear campaign against Privacy International [google.com] for giving them a last place rank.
    -6.7 - Screwing staff
    Raising cost of on site day care to $57,000 per year.
    -8.3 - Censorship
    Instituting keyword filters at the request of the Chinese government. Google's do no evil policy only applies to the U.S.
    Source: Wired 16.10
  • I can only imagine how people would react if their homebuilders decided that they were allowed to come in and re-paint your walls if you changed them to a color they didn't like. Oh, don't worry, we'll only do it if you install REALLY UGLY colors!

  • If this were Microsoft there would be fiery brimstone falling on Redmond from every blog in the world, but since this is Google (and Apple) we get tepid little stories like this.

    Where is the outrage?

  • So Google isn't trying to hide the kill switch, yet it took people longer to find than the one in the iPhone.
  • I work tech for an insurance company and we have this ability for blackberrys, it has been extremely useful in the past to kill applications off a device when that devices security has been compromised.

    In addition, wouldn't this give them the power to kill an app if it were virused?

    What about an app that was designed with malicious intent to shut down the phone systems?

    I mean I can see where we all have tinfoil hats, but sometimes this kind of legalize is necessary to give a company some headroom to protect

  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @03:03PM (#25403719)

    This situation reminds me of the pre-Carterfone phone system, in which the phone company (there was only one, which is a reminiscence for another day) prohibited attachment of "foreign" devices. If they didn't make it, you couldn't attach it. They'd even 'ping' your wiring to make sure you didn't have any unauthorized extras on the line. It took the Carterfone decision to get rid of that prohibition, leading to today's ability to attach anything we want, so long as it doesn't harm the system. I hope that we'll eventually get something like that for these new phones so that we're not subject to somebody else's ideas of what we're allowed to run on our own hardware.

  • Shove it up then (Score:3, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Thursday October 16, 2008 @03:14PM (#25403847) Homepage Journal
    i was waiting for android to come out, holding on purchasing another phone. for some godforsaken reason, i dont know why, i was thinking that since google was doing it, android would be better, since they have been sufficiently reliable on the web.

    now i find out that an external company is going to control what i do on MY phone if i buy android, regardless of it is google or not.

    the most polite thing i can say to google on it, after making me wait like this and popping that crap - shove it up your butt, where it belongs. also pay my respects to the brainless moron who thought that this kind of policy was a good idea.
  • *sigh* (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vegeta99 (219501) <rjlynn@gmai l . com> on Thursday October 16, 2008 @03:59PM (#25404401)

    I guess I'll have to stay with the open (as in playground) solution, Windows Mobile...

    I almost have an aneurysm saying that, but hey, it works. M$ can't delete MY software and neither can AT&T =)

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