Android users may have found one or two apps missing from their phones today after Google activated a remote app removal system to delete software that breached its terms of service.
The apps, which were removed without phone owners' consent, were free and created for the purposes of research by a single security expert.
Google claims that the researcher removed the apps himself after it made a request and it followed up on this by activating the so-called app kill switch.
The search giant stated: "Every now and then, we remove applications from Android Market due to violations of our Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement or Content Policy. In cases where users may have installed a malicious application that poses a threat, we've also developed technologies and processes to remotely remove an installed application from devices.
"They were not designed to be used maliciously and did not have permission to access private data — or system resources beyond permission.INTERNET. As the applications were practically useless, most users uninstalled the applications shortly after downloading them.
"In case of an emergency, a dangerous application could be removed from active circulation in a rapid and scalable manner to prevent further exposure to users. Whilst we hope to not have to use it, we know that we have the capability to take swift action on behalf of users' safety when needed."
There is certainly a slightly troubling side to this power which giants like Google have over their products, but it is interesting that the firm has always been transparent in its addition and implementation of the killswitch.
It took a hacker to point out that Apple had implemented a similar program, as it was only after this revelation that the firm officially confirmed its existence.