As you may have heard, Google has a “kill switch” feature in Android that allows them to remotely remove software they deem malicious from Android-based cell phones. While some potential end users are up in arms about this feature, the reaction from the developer community has been much more mild.
Some of the application developers for Google’s Android platform said they weren’t aware of a kill switch feature the vendor reportedly has put into its mobile operating system, but they weren’t too surprised either. "We’re not too concerned. We’re not making malicious apps. It should be fine and I totally understand why they’d want to do it," said Jeff Kao, co-founder of Ecorio, a Toronto-based developer.
Josh Curry and I discussed this on the latest Maximum Geek (Episode 28, just posted), and we came down squarely on opposite sides of the issue. Josh sees it as an abomination, yet another way Google can get corrupted by the power they wield. Personally, I don’t see it as much different from Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool, which is installed with every copy of Windows that has automatic updates turned on. It gives Google a way to remove software that poses a real danger to phones or networks, but users have to trust that Google will use it only as a means of last resort. Most users and developers seem willing to give Google the benefit of the doubt on this, where the same people were much more alarmed when the secretive and heavy-handed Apple was revealed to have the same feature on the iPhone (it’s probably worth mentioning that while the iPhone kill switch was a secret uncovered by code inspection, Google spilled the beans on the Android kill switch themselves).
Go ahead and read Josh’s take and then let us know where you stand on the issue. Can Google be trusted to use this feature benevolently?