Who watches the watchmen? Jobs confirms remote disabling of iPhone apps possible

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Steve Jobs confirms that applications purchased for the iPhone or iPod Touch can be remotely disabled by Apple.

Apple raised hackles in computer-privacy and security circles when an independent engineer discovered code inside the iPhone that suggested iPhones routinely check an Apple Web site that could, in theory trigger the removal of the undesirable software from the devices.

Mr. Jobs confirmed such a capability exists, but argued that Apple needs it in case it inadvertently allows a malicious program -- one that stole users' personal data, for example -- to be distributed to iPhones through the App Store. "Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull," he says.

It's fair to debate the wisdom of such a feature, but it's impossible to deny that this makes the iPhone something less than a portable computer and instead a device that operates exclusively under the aegis of Apple's sensibilities, not its owner's. Because the iPhone is a compelling platform I'm sure this news will marginally affect its success, but personally I will be extremely torqued the first time an application I pay for — from Apple's own purportedly pre-vetted application store — is remotely disabled without my permission. If an application is remotely disabled, will I be automatically refunded its purchase price?

This makes jailbreaking an iPhone — and removing the remote kill switch, if possible — something of an imperative at this point. It's icky stuff. Perhaps it could be challenged in court?

IPhone Software Sales Take Off: Apple's Jobs] [WSJ.com]

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