Google on Thursday acknowledged that it had “inadvertently coded” the Unique Identification Authority of India’s helpline number into the contact list of smartphones of Indian android users in 2014. The technology giant’s statement put to rest speculation about how the discontinued number ended up in the personal contact lists of Indian users.
The development follows UIDAI’s denial of asking any phone manufacturer, mobile application or service provider to include the toll-free helpline number. The authority blamed “vested interests” for “trying to create unwarranted confusion in the public”.
Google apologised for any concern it may have caused and assured users that the inclusion of the number was not “an unauthorised access” of their smartphones. “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 original equipment manufacturers for use in India and has remained there since,” said a Google spokesperson. “Since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list these get transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device.”
The technology firm said it will work on rectifying the error in the next “release of SetUp wizard which will be made available to original equipment manufacturers over the next few weeks”. Meanwhile, users can delete the contact number from their phones, the company said.
On Thursday, UIDAI took to Twitter to dispel concerns that it had unilaterally asked manufacturers to save the helpline number on Indian smartphone contact lists. The authority said the number saved on mobile devices, 1800-300-1947, was invalid. The correct helpline number is 1947 and it has been functional for more than two years, the authority said.
Speculation over Aadhaar helpline
A French cyber security expert, who uses the moniker Elliot Alderson, raised the matter on Twitter on Thursday and asked people if they had the UIDAI number on their phones. Soon, several people confirmed it and posted screenshots. While some of them had an Aadhaar number and used the mAadhaar mobile application, many others did not. Some people said this was the case only with Android phones, but it has been reported on iOS phones too