Apple CEO Steve Jobs confirms iPhone app ‘kill switch’

“Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, has confirmed there is a ‘kill switch’ built into the iPhone [operating system] that allows Apple to remotely delete malicious or inappropriate applications stored on the device,” Claudine Beaumont reports for The Telegraph.

“iPhone and iPod touch owners are able to install additional software on their devices purchased from the Apple Application Store,” Beaumont reports.

“Mr Jobs insisted that the so-called ‘kill switch’ was there as a precaution, rather than a function that was routinely used,” Beaumont reports. “‘Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull,’ said Mr Jobs.”

“Mr Jobs also announced that in the month since the iPhone 3G was released and the Application Store launched, around 60 million applications had been downloaded for the iPhone and iPod touch,” Beaumont reports.

Full article here.

Reportedly, the “kill switch” found last week (please see related article below) would allow Apple to block access to Core Location (GPS) for misbehaving apps. Whether or not Jobs was referencing that ability or another undiscovered “kill switch” is unknown.

61 Comments

  1. Did he hit the wrong button? MobileMe is down again, so maybe the wrong switch got thrown. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  2. Or a wife or girlfriend trying to find which strip joint you’re passed out in after you bought tequila shots all night with the money you got from pawning her engagement ring. You should at least get a twenty minute head start.

  3. I must say I don’t know enough about this to really be totally against this type of ability in the OS, but it still seems a bit “Big Brother-ish” that a company could yank or alter an application on a computing device post-purchase.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but there’s nothing like this on a desktop or notebook computer, is there?

    I think it’d bother people if there was. I suppose software updates sort of count, but those seem much more voluntary than this.

  4. I could think of any number of reasons for a kill switch, including programs that gathered and sent out your financial information, programs that used your phone’s processor to send out spam advertising, programs that stole minutes of your service and made them available to someone else, or programs that gathered information on phone calls you made.

  5. I think the kill switch is also needed from a liability standpoint, since Apple is in charge of distribution and handling the purchase of the app I’m sure someone will try to go after Apple for a malicious app doing something to their iPhone, contacts, minutes, etc. Being able to take down apps that violate privacy, etc. will probably prevent a lot of lawsuits:

    “this app you sold me did X”

    response “As soon as we discovered the problem we sent out a kill command to prevent the app from doing this to anyone else, removed it from our store, revoked the license key for the developer, and stopped payment for the purchases of this app”.

    Judge: “Apple followed due diligence and corrected the problem as soon as it was found, class action status denied, etc.”

  6. “A stalker accessing GPS to find their target’s location, for just one example.”

    So somehow they’re going to sign up for the developer program and create and upload the StalkMe trojan tip calculator application to the application store, and get their specific victim to download it from among the hundreds of apps? And then claim innocence when caught despite a trail which leads right to them?

    Sounds like a fairly dumb stalker with way too much time on their hands choosing a very complicated way to solve a simple problem.

    Now Apple killing apps they don’t like? We’ve seen that already. The risk of Apple’s abuse of the kill switch would seem to outweigh any benefit.

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