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 They also added that the number in question — 1800-300-1947 — is an outdated and inactive number, and the only toll-free number they have in use is 1947.
Before we move forward, just keep one thing in mind — UIDAI or someone they hired to, or someone acting out of ‘vested interest’, did access your phone and included a contact on it. To put it more harshly, someone just invaded your privacy and might do it again and you wouldn’t even know what hit you.
Maybe UIDAI did it
Well, it’s news to no one that UIDAI has screwed up once again and that they won’t own up to their mistake, once again.
But since they still deny that they had any involvement in this mess, let’s take a closer look at how they’re related to this number they say they didn’t have any hand in getting it saved on your smartphones.
Here is an excerpt from an August 2013 letter written by the Department of Telecommunications to all ‘Access Service Providers’: “…all the Telecom Providers are directed to take necessary action to map shortcode ‘1947’ to UIDAI’s new Toll-Free number 1800-300-1947 with immediate effect and send a compliance report to UIDAI.”
So five years earlier UIDAI tried to migrate their toll free number from 1947 to 1800 300 1947, but they’re still only available on the 1947 number can mean only two things — either they failed to migrate the number completely and are in the process of doing it again now, or they did manage to migrate but reverted to the old number.
We strongly feel it’s the former. Why? Let us explain.
Since these numbers started appearing on newly purchased devices less than a year back and on older devices very recently, one can only assume that UIDAI might be trying to migrate back to the number saved on your devices.
No one put that number in your phone as per UIDAI Press release
But there are great ambitions from 2016 about built-in aadhaar certified biometric sensors on your phone. pic.twitter.com/ASPK6EFpYM
— Anivar Aravind (@anivar) August 3, 2018
UIDAI hasn’t really been forthcoming about its work, especially when they face harsh questions from the press.
Maybe UIDAI didn’t do it
Howsoever hard it might be for you right now, let’s for a moment agree with UIDAI and give them the benefit of the doubt — which they don’t deserve.
But then who did it? Was it your telecom provider? Was it Google? Was it your smartphone manufacturer?
Now Google seems to have taken the fall, which has given rise to a few more questions. More on it in our next article.
The critical thing to note here is that someone did access your phone and who’s to say they won’t (or haven’t already) intrude your privacy any further — the same way the following tweet says.
Exactly! Right now they're inserting a code. Tomorrow they'll sneakily insert spyware and do surveillance.
As if Aadhaar wasn't enough as a surveillance tool. https://t.co/sUS8DMeFnx
— Nikhil Pahwa (@nixxin) August 3, 2018
On a lighter note: No one did it, you’re lit as a joint and high as a kite!
Listen. No one put that number on your mobile phone. The UIDAI didn't do it. The govt didn't do it. The cellular operators didn't do it. The handset manufacturers didn't do it.
In fact the number isn't there on your phone. You're imagining things. Okay?#Sarcasm
— Nikhil Pahwa (@nixxin) August 3, 2018
UIDAI’s statement defending their involvement in the case
“Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) today in the wake of some media reports on default inclusion of the UIDAI’s outdated and invalid Toll-free number 1800-300-1947 in the contact list of Android phones said that UIDAI has not asked or communicated to any manufacturer or service provider for providing any such facility whatsoever.”
“UIDAI emphasises that the said 1800-300-1947 is not a valid UIDAI Toll-free number and some vested interest are trying to create unwarranted confusion in the public. UIDAI’s valid Toll-free number is 1947 which is functional for more than the last two years. UIDAI has reiterated that it has not asked or advised anyone including any telecom service providers or mobile manufacturers or Android to include 1800-300-1947 or 1947 in the default list of public service numbers.”
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]