Just after the dust finished settling on Apple's controversial admission that the iPhone has a remotely activated kill switch for applications, Google has plainly stated in their Android Market terms of service that they've got one too. Like Apple's solution, Google's remote kill switch is ostensibly intended to protect users in cases of malicious apps or privacy violations, but will undoubtedly draw fire from users who want — and in the case of Android were pretty much promised — ultimate control over what applications they keep on their phones. While Apple reluctantly acknowledged the existence of their kill switch only after it was discovered by developers, Google has been relatively upfront about Android's. They've even laid out plans for reimbursing users whose paid apps (which aren't even available yet) are recalled. And as ComputerWorld notes, a kill switch makes a little more sense for Android, as their applications aren't really vetted in any meaningful way before showing up in the app store. Retroactive vetting, though, is still vetting, so Android's App Market may be a little more like the App Store than we originally thought. As before, we'll just have to wait for the final verdict on this one from preeminent kill switch expert Stephen Colbert. [ComputerWorld]
There is absolutely no possible way for Google to leverage this to, for example, kill VOIP or Tethering programs. It only applies to programs purchased in the Android Market, but there is absolutely nothing preventing you from downloading your apps elsewhere, like on somebody's website. This is just so Google can say that they have done their best to prevent their own servers from distributing viruses to people's phones.
In less than a year Apple has somehow hardwired a lot of people's brains into thinking that the offical store is the only possible way to get applications onto a smartphone. Android can install programs from anywhere, and if you get them from a website then Google has no way (or desire) to delete them from your phone for any reason.