UIDAI helpline row: Google says, ‘It was our fault’

New Delhi: Thousands of smartphone users in India were in for a rude shock on Friday when they saw the 1800-300-1947 number auto-saved as UIDAI in the contact list of their mobile phones. While this anomaly was mainly observed on Android phones, some iOS phones also reported the problem.

This soon led to questions about privacy concerns trending on social media. However, those concerns only increased when Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and telecom operators, denied any involvement on their part.

Don’t panic. it’s invalid

The UIDAI’s valid toll-free number is 1947, which is functional for more than the last two years, it said.

It also blamed “vested interests” for the toll-free number being automatically saved to the contact lists. “…The said 18003001947 is not a valid UIDAI toll-free number,” it said. “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,” it added.

Twitter was abuzz again with this “breach of privacy” after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman RS Sharma’s recent open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

The burning questions

  • How did the UIDAI helpline number get into peoples’ phonebooks without their explicit consent?
  • If UIDAI is responsible, how did they get access to enter the phone lists?
  • If UIDAI accessed the phone list, does it mean that they can access, and collect information from the smartphones?
  • UIDAI claims it did not enter the number. Then, who did, and what was the intention behind entering a defunct helpline number?
  • Why did people who do not have an Aadhaar also find the helpline number in their phone lists?

Google explains what happened

  • Google, on Friday, admitted the contact was ‘inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release’.
  • A spokesperson said, ‘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 has remained there since.’
  • The spokesperson added, ‘We would like to assure everyone that this is not a situation of an unauthorised access of their Android devices.’

‘Snooping on us just like NSA in USA’

Can you delete the number?

You can delete the number from your mobile phone contact list if you want to, as it is not an official helpline number.