On Friday, thousands of Indians were puzzled as the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) helpline number made it to their phonebooks without their consent. Following the same, there was an uproar on Twitter as several users took to the micro-blogging site to convey their concern.
The venting on Twitter did not stop on with the affected users. Even the French security expert, Elliot Alderson took to the platform to question UIDAI on why people using different service providers and non-Aadhaar card holders noticed the toll-free number in their contact list.
Notably, the decommissioned UIDAI toll-free helpline number 1800-300-1947 was spotted in the contact lists of several Android and iPhone users. However, the new helpline number 1947 hasn't been included. Some users reported that new devices with no active internet connection and no SIM card have also received the UIDAI number.
UIDAI responded to the controversy
In the wake of the controversy surrounding the inclusion of its toll-free number in the phonebooks of users across India, UIDAI took to Twitter to respond to the same. UIDAI said that the toll-free number 18003001947 is no longer its valid helpline number. Notably, the same was changed to 1947 back in 2016.
In a tweet storm, UIDAI made it clear that it did not ask any agency to include its helpline number in mobile phones.
The tweets collectively read, "In the wake of some media reports on default inclusion of UIDAI's outdated & invalid Toll free no. 1800-300-1947 in contact list of Android phones. It is clarified that, UIDAI has not asked or communicated to any manufacturer or service provider for providing any such facility whatsoever. It is emphasised that the said 18003001947 is not a valid UIDAI Toll free number and some vested interest are trying to create unwarranted confusion in the public. Our valid Toll free number is 1947 which is functional for more than the last two years. UIDAI has reiterated that it has not asked or advised anyone including any telecom service providers or mobile manufacturers or Android to include 18003001947 or 1947 in the default list of public service numbers."
Google took the blame
After the uproar, Google took up the blame saying that the issue did not arise to due UIDAI's direction but due to a software issue in Android. Google said, 112 distress helpline number and UIDAI helpline number were coded with the Android setup wizard and remained on devices.
The tweet by Google read, "Our internal review has revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and have remained there since. Since the numbers get listed on a user's contact list, these get transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device.
We are sorry for any concern that this might have caused, and would like to assure everyone that this is not a situation of an unauthorised access of their Android devices. Users can manually delete the number from their devices."
Google to fix the issue
Google further revealed that an update will be rolled out to fix the issue in the coming weeks. The tweet read, "We will work towards fixing this in an upcoming release of SetUp wizard which will be made available to OEMs over the next few weeks."