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Google Apps and Android: Lock, locate, and wipe

For organizations that use Google Apps, remote management of personally-owned Android devices just got easier.
Gone. Lost. Misplaced. The owner of a misplaced smartphone may even utter some unprintable words.

When a phone is lost, you'll generally want to lock, locate, or wipe the phone. Locking a phone sets a PIN code on the phone to prevent people unauthorized access. GPS signals help locate a phone, although not always with pinpoint accuracy. And wiping a phone removes installed applications and data.

There are, of course, tools to help individual users lock, locate, and wipe phones remotely. Apple iPhone owners should install Find My iPhone for all of these features when used with iCloud web services. Android owners have to rely on third party solutions, such as Lookout Security & Antivirus, for similar features. With Lookout, remote locating is free, while remote lock and wipe require an upgrade to the Premium version. (See the CNET article "How to remotely lock and wipe an Android phone" for Lookout setup details.)

Google Apps

In June 2013, Google updated an app that enables lock, locate, and remote wipe features for Android devices connected to Google Apps for Business, Education or Government accounts. The Google Apps Device Policy app makes it simple for administrators to manage Android devices. Users install the app free from the Google Play store. (Google Apps administrators should configure mobile device policies from the Google Apps Admin console | Google Apps | Mobile.)

The Google Apps Device Policy app provides remote security for Android-using Google Apps customers

The user installs the app, and then walks through a brief activation process.

Google Apps Device Policy app setup requires just a few taps

The Google Apps Device Policy App provides the user a detailed list of permissions.

The Google Apps Device Policy app enables many remote management features

Once enabled, the app's status screen displays the time of the last successful sync.

Once connected, the app displays the most recent sync time

After the app is activated, the Android user can lock or locate the device from the web at www.google.com/apps/mydevices.

Lock and locate Android devices linked to your Google Apps account from any browser

Remote mobile device controls for Google Apps Administrators

Google Apps administrators have two remote management options for connected mobile devices: "remote wipe" or "wipe account". A remote wipe removes ALL data on the device. A remote wipe doesn't discriminate between personal and corporate data. A remote wipe deletes everything.

For Android devices with the Google Apps Device Policy app installed, Google Apps administrators can choose to "Wipe account", instead of a full remote wipe. Wiping an account removes only the user's Google Apps account data, such as email, calendar information, and contacts. This leaves other user data intact. The full remote wipe option is also available.

Administrators may remotely wipe account data only for connected Android devices

As of June 2013, a Google Apps administrator can initiate a remote wipe for connected iPhone or iPad devices. (Google Apps administrators initiate remote actions from the Google Apps Admin console | Mobile.) The "wipe account" option is not available for iOS devices.

Google Apps administrators may remotely wipe connected iOS devices

In the future, it is possible that phones will be built into Google Glass(es), which we'll wear on our heads. We may be less likely to lose something we wear. But since most people I know misplace glasses occasionally, I expect the ability to remotely lock, locate, or wipe devices will remain useful.

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About

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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