Google apologises for 'inadvertently' adding UIDAI toll-free number to Android phones


Google Inc has found itself embroiled in fresh controversy over the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) helpline number popping up mysteriously in the contact lists of mobile phones running on its Android operating system.

Google admitted to a coding flaw that made the UIDAI number appear when users created a stir, accusing the company of pushing information to their devices without their consent.

A Google spokesperson said,

“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.”

Google has said that this has in no way compromised the security of the users. However, people took to Twitter to go after the internet giant, saying that this was not an installation problem and that it was coming from the internet and thereby held Google responsible for the UIDAI number popping up on their contact list.

The Cellular Operators Association of India said that mobile operators can pre-install helpline numbers, but in this case, there was no original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that pre-installed the UIDAI number. Now the onus is on Google to come out with a report stating how this inadvertent pushing of UIDAI took place.

“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 on their Android devices. Users can manually delete the number from their devices,” said the spokesperson, adding, "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.”

Activists have been after the government of India, stating that UIDAI does not protect the data of the registered users. On Friday, UIDAI denied any involvement in this matter and stated that the toll-free number 1800-300-1947 in the contact list of Android phones is an “outdated and invalid number".

So who can be held responsible? A top investor in a VC firm said that nobody's data is stolen, but there is a need to know if such helpline numbers are in fact allowed to be put on phones without people's consent.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court is yet to deliver a verdict on the constitutional validity of Aadhaar.



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