Google apologises over UIDAI’s helpline number in Android phones
Google says in 2014 the UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android phones
New Delhi: The addition of the Unique Identification Authority of India’s (UIDAI’s) outdated helpline number to the contact list of Android phone users is not a situation of an unauthorized access of users’ devices and users can manually delete the number from their devices, said Google while apologizing for the inconvenience late on Wednesday.
Android is a mobile operating system developed by Google designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
According to a spokesperson of Google, the company conducted an internal review which 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 (OEMs) for use in India and has remained there since.
“Since the numbers are listed on a user’s contact list these get transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device,” said the spokesperson.
The clarification from Google comes hours after the government agency in charge of the Aadhaar database of over 1 billion Indians has been facing heat from the public for the mysterious appearance of its helpline number on their phones.
“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 on their Android devices. Users can manually delete the number from their devices,” said the spokesperson.
“We will work towards fixing this in an upcoming release of SetUp wizard, which will be made available to OEMs over the next few weeks,” the spokesperson added.
Earlier on Friday, UIDAI while defending its unique ID project said that “some vested interests are trying to create unwarranted confusion”.
The toll-free number 1800-300-1947 in the contact list of Android phones is an “outdated and invalid number,” UIDAI said.
UIDAI has not asked or advised anyone, including any telecom service provider or mobile manufacturer or Android, to include 1 800 3001947 or 1947 in the default list of public service numbers, it said. “UIDAI’s valid toll-free number is 1947, which is functional for over two years.”
On Thursday, French security expert Elliot Alderson took to Twitter to ask: “Do you have @UIDAI in your contact list by default?”
The news stormed social media and people checked their phones to find UIDAI’s helpline number pre-saved on their devices without their knowledge. Based on a series of tweets that followed, it was established that the number entered users’ phones through an update on the Android platform.
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