Inadvertently Coded Aadhaar Number Into Android, Sorry: Google
Inadvertently Coded Aadhaar Number Into Android, Sorry: Google
(Photo: TheQuint/Arnica Kala)

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 —

Check your phone contacts.. a phone no. by the name of UIDAI - 1800-300-1947, has been mysteriously added to our contacts. I just checked it’s there in my contact. So agencies can now access anything on our phones. Delete it if there.

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.”

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.
Google statement

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.

UIDAI had categorically stated that it was an outdated and invalid helpline number. The thread added that UIDAI had “not asked or communicated” to phone manufacturers or service providers to install the 18003001947 number.

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.

(Photo Courtesy: Press Information Bureau)

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.

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