UIDAI mystery solved: Google admits it’s the culprit

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AUGUST 4, 2018

Social media exploded today after several Android users discovered that the UIDAI helpline number crept into their contact lists without their knowledge. The Aadhaar-issuing authority sprung into action with a clarification that this apparent intrusion was not their doing. Other govt bodies including COAI and TRAI also washed their hands off the matter. However, by the end of the day, the mystery seems to have been solved.

Google, the company behind Android OS, explained later in the day that it had configured the UIDAI helpline number along with other distress helpline numbers into the Android SetUp Wizard in 2014. This is what caused the contact to appear on the Android devices when they got transferred from one device to another. 

“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,” a Google spokesperson said. 

Since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device, the statement further stated. It means that the UIDAI helpline number from 2014 was transferred from old Android devices to new Android and iOS devices. This explains why the contact named UIDAI appeared in contact lists of smartphones running both Android and iOS.

“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,” the Google spokesperson assured.

Google has assured that the Android SetUp Wizard will be tweaked so that the issue is resolved. The update will be released to smartphone manufacturers in the next few weeks.

In its clarification earlier today, UIDAI stated that it had not instructed any phone manufacturer or telecom service provider to include its helpline number in the phonebook. The authority further added that the number mentioned in the contact details was incorrect. A letter by Department of Telecommunications back in August, 2013 during the Manmohan Singh government with Kapil Sibbal as minister had asked telecom operators to map the short code ‘1947’ to UIDAI’s toll free helpline number.

“Our valid Toll free number is 1947 which is functional for more than the last  two years. 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,” UIDAI said in its statement today.


Courtesy/Source: Business India