On 3 August 2018, a lot of people in India found a UIDAI number showing up on their smartphones without their consent. This left thousands of users confused and flustered. Hours later, UIDAI responded to the incident and denied forcing any smartphone manufacturer or telecom service provider to add a helpline number to their device. However, Google has accepted that in 2014 it inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI number into its setup wizard for Android.
This confession by the Android-maker somewhat puts to rest the confusion about how the helpline number creeped into their smartphones.
“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,” Google has said in a statement.
Google spokesperson said that it would like to assure users that “this is not a situation of an unauthorised access of their Android devices”. It said that if users wished, they can delete the number manually.
Google has also promised an “upcoming release of SetUp wizard which will be made available to OEMs over the next few weeks”.
While Google has reassured “no unauthorised access”, the question still remains that why would Android forcefully enter a helpline number for users without permission. It is another thing to put helpline numbers out-of-the-box, and absolutely another if an existing phone gets creeped in out of the blue.