Android 12 Preview Showcases Software Kill-switches

So I just got done watching one of those promotional run-down videos for Android 12’s makeover and feature updates… of those that struck out to me were the camera and microphone kill-switches being introduced under the quick settings from the notifications drawer.

The video I saw actually showed the person turning off their camera via the quick settings and then showing him opening up the camera app to show that there was no playback–just a black screen.

Right away I thought to myself “they know”… they know of what Purism and Pine64 are trying to introduce into the market and they’re afraid. They’re literally trying to pull the same shtick as Apple by most likely eventually saying they came up with the concept.

I for one am not impressed as software kill switches alone are simply software kill switches… they are not a sure thing as hardware kill switches which actually render the component useless.

I’m actually not an Android dev so those who are more involved with Android can probably chime in and correct me there but irregardless, I don’t see those kind of introductions as a justification for allowing Google to continue its surveillance-based platform.

I think Purism’s and Pine64’s success both speak volumes on where the community stands on privacy with smart phones—and while some might call me a dreamer—I think the world deserves an ethical alternative.


You’re not the only one.


Isn’t Google snooping on android users location no matter what the status of the location services settings are? And isn’t Google sending personal data every couple of minutes to their data centers even if users chose to opt out?

So much to the trustworthiness of a company that told their employees in imperative: “Don’t be evil!”, which was hilarious from the very beginning. For normal people it’s actually the standard to at least try not to be evil but be good by intend.

The spirit of the silicon valley doesn’t seem so much about to make a better world but to get insanely rich as quick as possible. Ethics and moral only stand in the way of that goal, but are always good for propaganda.

I wish the world could unify and scold them like a misbehaving child.

Unfortunately only a minority of customers will understand.


When the software is a blackbox, a software kill switch is meaningless. It might be 100% solid or it might be 1% solid. You have no way of telling the difference.

Just because “the camera app” showed a black screen or even just because “every camera app” shows a black screen, it is still possible that

  • the right camera app might still be able to use the camera
  • the operating system might still be able to use the camera
  • the camera might be 100% software killed but can, via some mechanism, possibly remote, still be able to be re-enabled for selective use

(As a random point, I would be happier if Google made it that “the camera app” gave an error message and aborted when the camera is disabled. A black screen doesn’t even rule out the possibility that some information is being conveyed.)

When the software is a blackbox, there is no alternative to a hardware kill switch.

When the software is open, the hardware kill switch is, in the most optimistic scenario, for peace of mind and at worst as a backup in case the operating system is compromised (and, let’s face it, Linux has not been immune to the odd serious remote unauthenticated attacker exploit, and probably still isn’t).

When the software is open, a hardware kill switch is still faster and more convenient to operate.


Not only that, but also, let’s not forget: they later removed that line from their code of conduct. Pretty ominous imo.


Yup, I hear 'ya… I purposely put this post here because no one should trust Google. Software kill switches, as you stated, will not work on a platform you do not have full visibility on. Just like on Windows or MacOS, you have no guarantee any silly button they add actually does anything to what they claim it does. This is why I’ve stated, the community understands this and will continue for a push in the success of Purism and Pine64. My main concern here (purely speculation) is that Google is trying to pull an Apple by claiming bragging rights on the kill switch concept the way Purism and Pine64 do it albeit only via a software gimmick–which, let’s be honest, Google will probably never invest in. Google and other Android platforms have a vast amount of advertising venues which is why I felt the need to start a discussion on it. Google did not implement meaningful kill switches into their products… Purism did. Google doesn’t deserve bragging rights.


It is hard to know for sure what convinced Google to add software kill switches to Android 12. It could be that some big corporate customer called up Google and asked for this feature, but it also could be that Google is paying attention to the development of Linux phones with hardware kill switches and this is could be Google’s way of countering mobile Linux. Unlike KaiOS and iOS, where it is easy for Google to get its software installed in the system, Google has little chance of getting its data collection apps (i.e., spyware) installed in the Librem 5 and PinePhone, so its best strategy is to offer something to convince people to not leave its platform.

As one of the contributors to GNOME, Google has to know what is happening with Phosh, and it has to be worried that it will eventually become good enough to start attracting people and companies that care about privacy. Google can see the strategic advantages Phosh has over the other Linux interfaces and knows that it has a real chance of eventually attracting mainstream users.

This is the reason why I decided to pre-order the Librem 5, because I thought that its existence would serve as an example that pushes the rest of the mobile industry. Most of the experimental projects get ignored, but sometimes they stimulate huge changes and sometimes their example forces the rest of the industry to behave better. I look at all the ripple effects that happened with OLPC and Mozilla, and I know that even little projects with few users can end up influencing the rest of the industry.

My theory is that if we want change to happen, we need to be willing to finance it, because the thing that makes change happen is seeing a working example of that change. We can complain all we want about how our personal data is being monetized by the mobile industry, but the mobile industry is only going to start changing when it can see phones on the market that don’t monetize people’s personal data. We can complain about phone makers not providing software updates, but it is only when the mobile industry can see a phone on the market getting lifetime software updates and running on the latest Linux kernels that our complaints start to become effective. If every phone on the market is based on planned obsolescence, our complaints fall on deaf ears, so having alternatives on the market that show that phones don’t have to be designed that way is extremely important.

Imagine if every new phone that gets released in the future gets compared to a Linux phone that is designed to last a decade because it has a replaceable battery, WiFi/BT and cellular modem and gets a decade of firmware updates and lifetime software upgrades, and it collects none of the user’s personal information, has hardware kill switches, and offers security that the user controls. There is nothing more effective than the power of a good example to convince people that another path is possible.