Even as Google stepped forward last week to take apologise for the pre-installed outdated UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) helpline number in the phonebooks of Android users, the Aadhaar authority has now condemned the spread of rumours and fear-mongering against Aadhaar.
The UIDAI said that by merely having a helpline number, that too an outdated one, on a mobile/smartphone, can cause no harm. Earlier, the UIDAI had announced that it hadn’t asked anyone to add the toll-free helpline number by default in the phonebooks of users.
“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,” said the UIDAI.
It added that rumours about the Aadhaar database being breached are “completely false and baseless”. “The UIDAI assures that Aadhaar data remains fully safe and secure,” the authority said, adding that people should stay away from such rumours and malicious campaign by vested interests.
It further said, “They should also not waste their time and time of their near and dear ones by forwarding or circulating such false and baseless rumours on their WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, etc.”
In the statement, the UIDAI also said that it expects that “Google will look into the issue 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.”
On Saturday, a Google spokesperson said that the company conducted an internal review which 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 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for use in India and has remained there since.
Further, the company said that Android users can delete the helpline number from their devices manually.
Google also said that it would work towards fixing the problem in an upcoming release of SetUp wizard, which will be made available to OEMs over the next few weeks.
The trouble started when French security expert Elliot Alderson took to Twitter to ask: “Do you have @UIDAI in your contact list by default?”
Soon after the tweet, social media went abuzz with people checking their phones to find the helpline number — 18003001947 — pre-saved on their Android devices without their knowledge.
With Aadhaar being mired in a string of controversies amid an ongoing Supreme Court case, people’s faith in the system seems to have been shaken, which was evident in the furore over social media on the issue. But Google and UIDAI’s prompt responses to the controversy addressed the rumour-mongering in time.
[The development was reported by ET.]