The appearance of UIDAI’s contact number on smartphones of users in India has created an uproar in India and finally, the mystery seems to be over as Google has owned up stating that they were responsible for ‘inadvertently’ inserting a code into Android that caused this.
What has happened so far?
On August 2, 2018, a large number of smartphone users in India — mostly Android but also iOS — found out that UIDAI’s phone number had been randomly inserted in their devices without their consent or prior knowledge of the same.
After a huge social media uproar and multiple media houses reporting on the same, on August 3, 2018, UIDAI issued a statement that essentially said that they’re not responsible for this happening. They also added that the number in question — 1800-300-1947 — is an outdated and inactive number, and the only toll-free number they have in use is 1947.
Google has taken the fall stating “…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 for use in India and has remained there since.”
They’ve issued an apology too and said: “… this is not a situation of an unauthorised access of their Android devices”. But their statement only raises more questions than it settles.
The only silver lining: you can delete the number. But the glitch here is some users reporting that the number reappears if you reset the phone. Not foolproof but it certainly doesn’t reappear on a restart.
How do you explain UIDAI number in Apple iPhones running iOS?
Let’s believe that this was indeed Google’s fault and they ‘inadvertently’ inserted a code that shouldn’t have been there in the first place, still how does one explain the presence of UIDAI numbers in iOS devices?
Did Apple ‘inadvertently’ code these numbers into few of their iPhones too? Guess not.
@anivar I have it on my iPhone 8 which I regularly wipe and reinstall iOS on. My contacts are synced with my Google account. Pretty sure it’s come from Google somehow.
— ¯_(ツ)_/¯ (@PranavDixit) August 2, 2018
If Google is to be blamed for the inclusion of UIDAI’s 1800-300-1947 toll-free (‘outdated’) number on Android devices, what about the iPhones?
Just noticed that’s it’s on my iPhone too though never loaded!
— Chandrasekhar (@chondhe) August 3, 2018
And on smartphones running Lineage OS
Much like iOS, a few people also said that their devices, which ran an Android-based modded ROM — Lineage OS — also had the UIDAI contact stored in their phones by default. Sounds strange?
My Redmi with LineageOS does have it ¯_(ツ)_/¯
— Soham (@shmsnh) August 2, 2018
And why are we seeing this number now if it has been on Android devices since 2014?
Google has clearly stated that these codes were added to the SetUp wizard of Android that was given to OEMs for use in India in 2014.
If that is the case, then why are we hearing about these number only now. 2014 to 2018 have three years in between, so how did this number started popping up in old devices now and coming pre-installed in devices that are selling currently?
Was the code dormant in the old Android devices and was recently activated by Google?
112 to Distress helpline in 2014?
Another odd thing is that Google has mentioned the inclusion of ‘112’ distress helpline number in the 2014 code, alongwith the UIDAI contact number.
Well, the 112 distress helpline number was only activated by the government in early 2017, so why did Google have it coded as a default number in the SetUp wizard for Android distributed to OEMs back then?
The usage of 112 in India is so new that a majority of the population still isn’t even aware of its existence and still call the old separate numbers for different kinds of emergencies.
Who writes a 21 line long code and just inserts it into the Android SetUp Wizard — targeted for a billion-strong market — ‘inadvertently’.
Google seems to be caught in their own lie, as is UIDAI, who never claims to have done anything wrong.
Apart from these five, if you have any other questions, comment down below.
“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 for use in India and has remained there since. Since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list these get transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device.
We are sorry for any concern that this might have caused and 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.”
Writes news mostly and edits almost everything at Candid.Technology. He loves taking trips on his bikes or chugging beers as Manchester United battle rivals.
Contact Prayank via email: [email protected]