Google uses remote-kill functionality on Android apps

Google, which has just released the Froyo code, has used its remote application removal powers on two apps that were distributed by a security researcher

Google has remotely removed applications from some Android smartphones, the company revealed on Wednesday.

In a blog post, Android security lead Rich Cannings said Google had "developed technologies and processes to remotely remove an installed application from devices" for use "in cases where users may have installed a malicious application that poses a threat". The iOS operating system used in the iPhone and iPad gives Apple similar power to remove apps from their customers' phones.

According to Cannings, Google recently decided to exercise this power in the case of two free applications that had been made available by a security researcher, for his or her 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," Cannings wrote.

"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."

Also on Wednesday, Google software engineer Jean-Baptiste Queru blogged that the source code for Android 2.2 — also known as Froyo, this is the latest version of the operating system — had been released. He noted that the release was being made in "a single step", so as to "accelerate everyone's migration to Froyo from older releases".

"It is also already fully merged into the open-source master tree," Queru wrote. "Consequently, we can immediately review and accept platform contributions based on Froyo. That will therefore reduce the risk of merge conflicts between contributions to the open-source tree and changes in Google's internal master tree where those contributions are meant to end up."

The Froyo release also included the open-sourcing of some hardware-related libraries, Queru said. These included the recovery user interface code — which controls how the user restores the phone to factory settings — for various phones including HTC's Dream, Sapphire and Passion handsets.

Meanwhile, a report in Computerworld has revealed that Intel is in the process of porting Froyo to its x86 platform. Although x86 ports of Android have already been made to some degree of success, the operating system usually runs on ARM architecture and is optimised to do so.