Google says sorry, takes the blame for Aadhaar helpline row

Man Hands Phone

There’s been a huge controversy brewing over the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)’s helpline number being present in Android phones over the past few days. Many blamed the organization for invading their privacy, but it turns out Google was behind the mix-up.

The issue began last week when many people began noticing that the old UIDAI helpline number 1800-300-1947 was present in their Android device’s contact list even though they had never saved it. This naturally caused a panic, with many assuming the authority had invaded their privacy and installed its number without asking for permission.

UIDAI Controversy Explanation

PTI reports that this alarm was fueled by a French security researcher going by the Mr. Robot-inspired name Elliot Alderson. He tweeted out a message to UIDAI on August 1, asking them why people with and without an Aadhaar card had its number saved in their phones.

UIDAI and telecom operators denied any kind of wrongdoing before Google eventually took the blame. The search giant is now apologizing for the mess. As per its statement, the helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were accidentally coded into the setup wizard of the Android release given to OEMs in India back in 2014.

One of the reasons why the numbers stuck around and even spread to iPhones is because a person’s contact list gets transferred to any new devices they buy if they sync it with their Google account. The company plans to fix the problem in a future setup wizard release over the next few weeks.

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Google is also trying to reassure users that this is not a case of unauthorized access, but a simple mistake. It still seems a bit suspicious that it just randomly decided to include these numbers in the first place. Both UIDAI and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) are denying that they pushed for the numbers to be included.

If you’ve found the UIDAI number in your phone, you can either choose to manually delete it or replace it with 1947. The latter is the organization’s new helpline number.