According to CNN, the United States government has reportedly created a “modified version of Google’s Android software, which is being developed as part of an initiative that spans multiple federal agencies and government contractors.”
The phones will be sent to US troops first, and later on, US officials are “expected to get phones for sending and receiving government cables while away from their offices.” According to Michael McCarthy, a director for the Army’s Brigade Modernization Command:
The Army has been testing touchscreen devices at U.S. bases for nearly two years. About 40 phones were sent to fighters overseas a year ago, and the Army plans to ship 50 more phones and 75 tablets to soldiers abroad in March, he said.
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It’s clear that the US has chosen Android because of its open source nature, but it’s surprising that this program has managed to move so far along without third parties revealing that it was happening. And as far as other mobile operating systems go, people involved in this program have said that they hope to support all mobile phones in the future, including Apple’s iPhone, but at this point that’ll have to wait.
The concern for security isn’t misguided, as many apps are known to request more information than is necessary. For example, “a weather app may automatically send a phone’s GPS coordinates over the Internet to deliver a local forecast, or games may send the device’s unique identifier along with a high score.” Android has experienced particularly big problems with the use of unlocked phones and unofficial app markets.
It’s great to see the US government playing catch-up to provide officers and military personel smartphones, but It’s interesting to see how hesitant it had been up until this point. If the US is truly concerned about the security of mobile devices, it should be diving in head-first to emerging technologies before it falls too far behind.