Google has the ability to remotely reach out to your phone and remove applications that you’ve downloaded and installed from the Android Market. That sounds scary… and it kind of is. But since Android was first introduced over two years ago, the company never really used that feature… until recently.

Normally, when Google spots an app that violates its terms of service, it simply removes that app from the Android Market. But on the Android Developers Blog, the company says it recently spotted two apps that violated those terms and which had already been removed from the Market — but which Google decided to remotely wipe from users phones as well.

Neither free app was actually malicious. Instead, they were designed by a research firm to conduct some sort of research — and the descriptions misidentified the purpose of the apps in order to increase downloads. But the point is that Google could use the same tools to remove actual malicious apps from your phone, while sending you an alert to let you know about it. And that could be a good thing.

There was a story going around this week about a study showing that as many as 20% of the apps in the Android Market could be spyware or worse, based on the level of access to your phone that those apps use. It turns out that most of them are probably harmless, and you do see a pop up message alerting you to some of the services each app accesses when you install it.

But if an app did manage to leak through the cracks, it looks like Google could retroactively flip a switch, remove the app, and help protect you.

On the other hand — what if a copyright holder decides that an app you paid for violates their copyright? Could they contact Google and request that the company remove it? Would you get a refund? Would you be happy even if you did? It’s a bit scary realizing how much control Google has over the device you’ve already purchased and customized to make your own.

via Droid Life

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...