UIDAI number in your contact list? Google knows how it happened

  • ·         Google clarified that it was at their end that the old Aadhaar helpline was coded into devices 
  • ·         UIDAI had said that it had never asked phone manufacturers or telcos to add the toll-free helpline on devices 
  •       Minutes ahead of Google’s statement, a vigilante hacker had speculated the search engine giant’s involvement 

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In a statement released on Friday, the tech giant explained how the number entered the phonebooks of Android devices.

After the confusion and panic set off by several Indian smartphone users finding UIDAI’s toll free number on their phonebooks, when they had no memory of ever entering it into their phones, Google has come out with a clarification saying that it had ‘inadvertently’ coded the number into the setup of Android devices in 2014. 

A Google spokesperson said, “Our internal in the 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. Since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list these get transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device.”

OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturers.of  Google’s clarification explains why the number was mostly found on Android devices, and also in the phones of non-Android users who have used the Android device in the recent past. The contacts would have simply been transferred to the new phone.

Apologising for the panic this created, the tech giant said, “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 unauthorized access of their Android devices. Users can manually delete the number from their devices.”

“We will work towards fixing this in an upcoming a release of SetUp wizard which will be made available to OEMs over the next few weeks,” the statement added.

This comes after many people were baffled to find UIDAI’s toll-free number — 1800 300 1947 — automatically stored in their phone contacts. Moreover, this was irrespective of whether they had linked their Aadhaar or not, or even had an Aadhaar number in the first place. 

Responding to this on Friday, UIDAI, in a series of tweets, said that it had not asked any manufacturer or service provider for providing any such facility whatsoever.

“It is emphasized that the said 18003001947 is not a valid UIDAI Toll-free number and some vested interests are trying to create unwarranted confusion in the public,” the Aadhaar body said. 

Further, the UIDAI stated that it has not asked anyone, including telecom service providers, mobile manufacturers or tech companies to include 1800-300-1947 or 1947 in the default list of public service numbers.

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