Two days after social media giant Google issued public apology for "inadvertently" loading the old UIDAI helpline number and 112 helpline numbers into the 'setup wizard' of Android phones, Aadhaar regulatory body UIDAI on Sunday urged the public to stay away from all sorts of false rumours propagated by people/institutions with 'vested interests'.
Assuring that there is no breach into the Aadhaar database and the personal details of Indians are safe, UIDAI said, “Aadhaar data remains fully safe and secure, and people should stay away from such rumours and malicious campaign by vested interests.”
This is totally false propaganda and is nothing but scare-mongering against Aadhaar by vested interests trying to exploit Google’s act to spread misinformation. It must be clearly understood that by merely having a helpline number that, too, an outdated one, on a mobile/smartphone, no harm can be caused,” the body said in a statement.
UIDAI further stated that Google has expressed regret for the mixup and has assured to fix the error in their next release. UIDAI clarified that he users may, if they wish, can delete the number.
Earlier on Friday, Google has admitted that it is to blame for the mysterious appearance of an outdated Aadhaar helpline number in the contact lists of phones, and clarified that it wasn’t an unauthorised breach of the Android devices. The US Internet major added that the issue would be fixed over the next few weeks.
“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,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement late Friday.
Rumours started surfacing after people posted screenshots of UIDAI helpline number in their contact lists, following which the body denied its role in the mysterious appearance of the defunct UIDAI helpline number 1800-300-1947 on Android and some iOS devices. The appearance of the number has created public outcry, with many citizens fearing a breach of privacy amid the ongoing debate around the security of the Aadhaar system.
Defending itself after drawing flak on social media over the default inclusion of the number in mobile phone contact list, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had said that, "...the said 18003001947 is not a valid UIDAI toll free number and some vested interests are trying to create unwarranted confusion in the public".
The UIDAI's valid toll free number is 1947, which is functional for more than the last two years, it had said.
The appearance of the number on smartphones had caused a social media furore, as users expressed concerns over how the helpline number had snuck into their smartphone contact list. #UIDAI was trending on the micro-blogging site as the Twitterati sought to unravel the mystery, and questioned the "breach of privacy".
A French security expert who goes under the pseudonym Elliot Alderson and describes himself as "worst nightmare" of the UIDAI on Thursday had tweeted, "Hi @UIDAI, 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?"
His tweet scared many mobile phone users on appearance of UIDAI old helpline number in their contact even though they did not add it.
The UIDAI controversy, second in the last one week, comes at a time and the Supreme Court has reserved its judgement on a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar Act. There are also heightened concerns over personal information being allegedly compromised in some instances with increasing use of biometric identifier Aadhaar in an array of services.