New Delhi: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on Sunday quashed as “completely false and baseless" messages circulating on social media that the UIDAI helpline number in contact lists of Android phones pose a risk to the devices. “This is totally false propaganda and is nothing but scare-mongering against Aadhaar by vested interests trying to exploit Google’s act to spread misinformation about Aadhaar by scaring people," UIDAI said in a statement.
UIDAI also said that its outdated helpline number will not cause any harm to people’s phones and therefore there should be no panic to delete the number. It also advised people to stay away from rumours and malicious campaign by vested interests. People “should also not waste their time and time of their near and dear ones by forwarding or circulating such false and baseless rumours on their WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, etc.," said the Aadhaar-issuing authority.
According to one such forwarded messages on WhatsApp,which Mint accessed, "Everyone pl chk ur contact list one toll free number is saved..it is showing UIDAI...it may be spam...channels also broadcasting this news...please delete...your data may be at risk".
On Thursday, French security expert Elliot Alderson took to Twitter to ask: “Do you have @UIDAI in your contact list by default?"
The news spread on social media as people checked their phones to find the UIDAI helpline number in contacts list 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.
UIDAI on Friday said that it did not asked or advise 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. UIDAI’s valid toll-free number is 1947, which is functional for over two years, it added.
Hours later on Friday, Google apologized for the “inadvertent" act and said the addition of UIDAI’s outdated helpline number to the contact list of Android phone users, is not a situation of an unauthorized access of users’ devices. The helpline number was added by it “inadvertently" along with police/fire number 112 in 2014 and has since been continuing through sync mechanism, Google said.
Google also assured that it will fix this inadvertent error in their next release and stated that the users may, if they wish, can delete the number.
Over the last few months, there has been a rise in the spread of fake messages on social media especially through WhatsApp which have triggered a spate of murders across the country.
In July, the government asked WhatsApp to take appropriate measures to curtail the spread of fake and provocative messages on its platform. WhatsApp then restricted the number of forwarded messages to five. However, the government is not satisfied with these steps and has directed WhatsApp to take stricter action on fake news.