Over the course of last week, a number of Android phone users in India took to Twitter to talk about a certain government helpline number which mysteriously appeared on their phones. This number (1800-300-1947) is the toll-free helpline of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). This agency oversees the Aadhaar biometric identity program.
The UIDAI has not been having the easiest of times of late, considering the vulnerabilities that were found in the way it handled the Aadhaar database. In recent months, the program was plagued by security leaks that exposed the data of hundreds of millions of users. So, when the agency’s number popped up on Android phones across the country, the initial blame was put on them.
UADAI responded, claiming that it had nothing to do with the sudden appearance of the number on Android devices. The agency even said that the particular toll-free number was not in use anymore.
However, Google has admitted that it coded UIDAI’s helpline number on the Android setup back in 2014. This was in addition to a distress number (112). The result of this was that all users who set up their Android devices in India had those numbers automatically added to their contact lists.
Google has released a statement apologizing for the issue, but failed to go into detail as to why it added those numbers in the first place. The internet giant however said that the numbers were added “inadvertently”, and that it will release an updated device setup wizard that does not include the numbers to device makers across the country.
The company said:
We 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.
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.
So, if you are an Android user in India, and you see UIDAI’s helpline number on your device, know that it was “inadvertently” added by Google.
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