New Delhi : Just days after TRAI chairman RS Sharma took social media by storm, sharing his Aadhaar number on Twitter and challenging people to harm him, the Unique Identification Authority of India or UIDA has found itself in fresh controversy. UIDAI is the authority which runs the Aadhaar project in India. The UIDAI's helpline number is being randomly saved by default in many Android phones, and users have no idea how and why. The issue seems to be specific to Android phones and isn't limited to one or two telecom operators or even one or two brands of phones. Most Android phones seem to be affected, and it doesn't matter if you're using Airtel, Vodafone or Jio.
Problem is, the UIDAI helpline number (1800-300-1947) being saved in Android phones across India is not even up-to-date, something that even the UIDAI has come up and acknowledged. In fact, the authority has said that it "hasn't asked or communicated to any manufacturer or service provider for providing any such facility," going on to blame "vested interests" for causing confusion.
The question is from where this number is coming? And the likely answer is that the number is coming from Google's Android operating system, which powers over 90 per cent smartphones in India. The operating system apparently started adding the UIDAI number to phones last year at operating system level on the basis of a phone's location. The number was added only to phones in India. This is something @kingslyj on Twitter has found.
The issue came to light late on Thursday night when French hacker who goes by the pseudonym Elliot Alderson asked people on Twitter if they had the UIDAI helpline in their phonebooks. Within hours, social media was abuzz with people posting screenshots confirming that the UIDAI helpline had been saved in their Android phones out of the blue, without their knowledge or consent.
"Many people, with different provider, with and without an #Aadhaar card, with and without the mAadhaar app installed, noticed that your phone number is predefined in their contact list by default and so without their knowledge. Can you explain why?" Alderson had tweeted.
Telecom operators are known to bundle emergency numbers and services with their SIM cards. Often this is after a Government authority makes it a guideline. But in this case, the UIDAI has come up and denied it hasn't given out any such directions. While it could not be independently confirmed with the phone manufacturers, the issue raises both fear and concern, how the helpline number made its way to so many Android phones. India Today Tech reached out to Google, and the company that's behind Android said that it is currently investigating the matter.