Inadvertently Coded Aadhaar Number Into Android, Sorry: Google
The Quint received queries from its readers seeking verification of a message which is doing the rounds on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. While the message appears in different variations, the main points remain the same. The message reads something like this —
While one variation of this message warns the receiver about government surveillance, another version warns the number belongs to a “hacker”.
DO NOT BELIEVE THESE MESSAGES.
In a statement, Google said that the number was “inadvertently coded” into the setup of Android in 2014 and apologised for it.
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 [Original Equipment Manufacturers] for use in India and have remained there since.Google statement
Apologising for “any concern that this might have caused”, the company assured that “this is not a situation of an unauthorised access of their Android devices.”
UIDAI Denies Involvement
On Sunday, 5 August, UIDAI said that vested interests tried to misuse Google's inadvertent act for fear-mongering against Aadhaar. "A helpline number can't steal data," it said, advising phone users "not to panic and delete old helpline number."
Earlier, the UIDAI had issued an official clarification denying its involvement in the issue.
The UIDAI thread said that 1947 was their default toll free helpline “which has been functional for more than the last two years.” Confusion and anger had ensued after anonymous security researcher Elliot Alderson flagged the mysterious appearance of UIDAI helpline.
People had expressed their bewilderment by sharing screenshots of the number installed on their devices. It emerged that the helpline was primarily present on devices running on the Android operating system. However, some iPhone users confirmed having the number in their devices as well.
The Planning Commission had issued an official press statement on 1 August 2014 announcing 1800 300 1947 or 1947 as toll free helplines dedicated to addressing Aadhaar-related grievances.
The numbers exist on the reverse side of the Aadhaar cards as well. A call on the number, however, confirmed that it is no longer valid.