Ankit Sharma Sharma
Green tea Addict | A Tree Hugger | Born for Change
On Friday, the Internet was overrun by thousands of smartphone users across India complaining about a helpline number of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) being saved automatically in their mobile phone’s contact list. UIDAI authorities denied forcing any smartphone manufacturer or telecom service provider to add a helpline number to people’s contact lists. However, hours later, Google accepted that in 2014 it had “inadvertently” coded 112 distress helpline numbers and the UIDAI number into its setup wizard for Android.
The mystery of UIDAI magically showing up in people’s contact list was solved yesterday after Google issued a statement saying, “Our internal review has revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and 112 distress helpline numbers were inadvertently coded into the setup wizard of the Android release given to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for use in India and had remained there since. As the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device.”
Google further apologised for the same and informed that the users could manually delete the number from their 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 unauthorised access of their Android devices,” the statement added.
The statement also said that the Google will work towards fixing the issue in an “upcoming release of the setup wizard, which will be made available to OEMs over the next few weeks”.
Earlier on Friday, Aadhar issuing UIDAI authorities denied forcing any smartphone manufacturer or telecom service provider to add a helpline number into people’s phonebook.
The UIDAI also issued a statement saying, that the toll-free number 1800-300-1947 that is appearing in people’s contacts lists was outdated and invalid.
#PressStatement In the wake of some media reports on default inclusion of UIDAI’s outdated & invalid Toll free no. 1800-300-1947 in contact list of Android phones… 1/n
— Aadhaar (@UIDAI) August 3, 2018
“It is emphasised that the said 1800-300-1947 is not a valid UIDAI toll-free number and some vested interests are trying to create unwarranted confusion in the public.” the statement said.
The statement further clarified that the official helpline number for Aadhaar is 1947, which has been functional for the last two years.
Interestingly, according to the Indian Express, the UIDAI helpline number was found in many iPhone 8 and iPhone X mobile phones. However, the helpline number was not found on other devices like the iPhone 7, Mi A1, etc.
The clarification from both UIDAI and Google came after many people complained about finding the UIDAI number in their phone book.
“When I checked my phone today, I found out the UIDAI number in my telephone diary. When I tried calling on the number, I was not able to get through it,” told a Motorola mobile user, while speaking to The Logical Indian.
— Sumanth Raman (@sumanthraman) August 3, 2018
Check your phone contacts: You may see an entry for UIDAI with the number 1800-300-1947. This has been pushed mysteriously thru the back end?
If correct It means agencies can push anything into your phone without your knowledge.
And extract anything.
— Prabhu Chawla (@PrabhuChawla) August 3, 2018
Back in 2017, a user had pointed the presence of the UIDAI helpline number on some android devices.
“I noticed this trend in November 2017 itself and tried to warn people about it. See part is when UIDAI has access to your phone it means they can track every movement, every call. it means they can track every movement, every call. The Aadhaar card itself is overwhelmingly intrusive, and now this just makes it worse,” Anivar Aravind, security researcher and executive director, Indic Keyboard, told The Times of India
Do you have @UIDAI in your contact list by default?
— Elliot Alderson aka “Vested Interest” (@fs0c131y) August 2, 2018
This is not the first time that the Aadhar is in controversy; recently, the chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), RS Sharma, had put his Aadhar details on the social media challenging hackers to try misusing his Aadhar details.
Also published on Medium.
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