UIDAI says vested interests misused Google’s ‘inadvertent’ act to tarnish Aadhaar image, helpline can’t steal data

UIDAI says vested interests misused Google’s ‘inadvertent’ act to tarnish Aadhaar image, helpline can’t steal data

New Delhi: The UIDAI on Sunday said vested interests misused Google’s “inadvertent” act around its old helpline number to create fear and tarnish the image of Aadhaar while emphasising that a number stored in contact list cannot steal data from a mobile phone. The Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) said rumour mongers attempted to tarnish the image of Aadhaar for a Google’s inadvertent act that led to appearance of its old helpline number 1800 300 1947 in the contact list of several mobile phone users.

UIDAI Number auto-saved on phones. Image: tech2/Shomik Sen Bhattacharjee

UIDAI Number auto-saved on phones. Image: tech2/Shomik Sen Bhattacharjee

“UIDAI condemns the vested interests who tried to misuse Google’s ‘inadvertent’ act as an opportunity to spread rumours and go around fear-mongering against Aadhaar,” the authority said in a statement. Last week, a French security expert who goes under the pseudonym Elliot Alderson and describes himself as the “worst nightmare” of the UIDAI, in a tweet had raised alarm on presence of a UIDAI contact number in contact list of mobile phone users without their consent.

His tweet scared many mobile phone users on appearance of the UIDAI’s old helpline number in their contacts even though they did not add it. Google on last Friday admitted that the number 18003001947 was added by it ‘inadvertently’ along with police and fire number 112 in 2014 and has since been continuing through sync mechanism. The UIDAI said it has earlier clarified and emphasised that it has not asked any agency whatsoever to include its helpline number in mobile phones and also added that merely adding a phone number cannot steal data from the phone.

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“Just by a helpline number in a mobile’s contact list the data stored on the mobile phone cannot be stolen. Therefore, there should be no panic to delete the number as no harm will be caused. Rather people may, if they so wish, update it with UIDAI’s new helpline number 1947,” the authority said. Anderson in his another tweet had said that there was no need to freak out as it was just a contact but alarmed that it could be the tip of “an iceberg”.

The UIDAI said rumours being spread on social media to delete helpline number are “totally false propaganda and is nothing but scare-mongering against Aadhaar by vested interests trying to exploit Google’s act to spread misinformation about Aadhaar by scaring people.” The Aadhaar custodian said that it expects Google, a large digital platform provider, will look into the matter which caused confusion in the minds of people against “India’s credible identity system and will exercise due care so that such things are not repeated in future.”

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