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Google is remotely disabling malicious software that deceived more than a quarter of a million owners of Android smartphones, as the outbreak continues to raise questions on the company’s approach to security.
It is the first time Google has had to reach into already-purchased phones to remove dangerous applications that customers have voluntarily installed.
The company has always kept the ability to do so as part of its licensing agreement with manufacturers and last year it wiped Android phones of a security researcher’s experimental program that was harmless but designed to demonstrate flaws in the system.
It’s probably not a bad idea for the company to go ahead and disable those malicious apps. You have to weigh the “invasiveness” of remotely disabling apps with the very real danger this rash of malware represents. Does Google really want its Android Market to gain the reputation of being a cesspool of malware? Certainly not. But then part of the allure of the Android Market is that it’s open; you don’t have to play by Google’s rules, per se, to get on there like you do with Apple’s App Store. Is that openness lessened if Google, acting in the best interests of its users, decides to remotely disable these malware apps?