The Centre’s Narendra Modi government is being accused of lying after hundreds of thousands of users on Monday realised their phone contacts list had a Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) toll-free helpline number saved by default.
The topic gained momentum on social media and soon became a full-blown controversy after the government issued a denial. In a press statement, the UIDAI said that it had not asked ‘or communicated to any manufacturer or service provider for’ the default inclusion of the UIDAI number.
UIDAI had replaced the earlier helpline number — 1800-300-1947 — with the new number — 1947, which got into people’s phonebooks without their consent.
“This is no joke as it is on my phone too. I didn’t save this number. Check your phone asap, feeling worried,” a user tweeted with a screenshot.
A French security expert, Elliot Alderson, asked UIDAI on Twitter: “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? Regards,”
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?
— Elliot Alderson (@fs0c131y) August 2, 2018
The statement by Aadhaar on Twitter read, “In the wake of some media reports on default inclusion of UIDAI’s outdated & invalid Toll free no. 1800-300-1947 in contact list of Android phones. It is clarified that, UIDAI has not asked or communicated to any manufacturer or service provider for providing any such facility whatsoever.
“It is emphasised that the said 18003001947 is not a valid UIDAI Toll free number and some vested interest are trying to create unwarranted confusion in the public. Our valid Toll free number is 1947 which is functional for more than the last two years.”
But journalists and other prominent users on social continued to embarrass the UIDAI sharing the screenshots of their contacts list and demonstrating how the Aadhaar number was included in their phonebooks without their consent.
— Maya Mirchandani (@maya206) August 3, 2018
So who saved UIDAI helpline no. in my contacts?
Will the real slim shady please stand up?
— Kamlesh Singh | Bana de Lohagarh (@kamleshksingh) August 3, 2018
— Ninda Mama (@Ninda_Mama) August 3, 2018
— Sachin Tandon (@cugwmui) August 3, 2018
However, UIDAI’s clarification led to more controversy as users asked why a wrong number would be included in contacts list without the knowledge of the users. Some even shared the official communication from the past directing the telecom providers to include the UIDAI number by defaults in phone books.
If this is true , then #UIDAI is lying ?
BTW have you noticed 1947 is the year we got #Independence .
Now this #Aadhaar is that #tool which is making us slaves again .
So we need to #DestroyTheAadhaar now…now & now. pic.twitter.com/OrQo692xBK
— Citizen / নাগরিক / Human Suman sengupta সুমন (@sumonseng) August 3, 2018
One journalist asked, “This is bizarre. Why should Telecom operators on their own add a UIDAI contact number to people’s contact lists without their knowledge and that too a wrong number as it now appears? Something does not add up.”
Another journalist wondered, “I think both the #UIDAI & Telcos are not giving the full picture. Did the instruction come from the UIDAI and were the telcos following that? Or did they simply pre-load it on their own as an addl number? Better to clarify than give rein to cyber-attack conspiracy theories.”
Twitter was abuzz again with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Chairman RS Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers. Sharma made a tweetstorm by sharing his 12-digit Aadhaar number on July 28.
Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth (DoB), PAN number and voter ID, among others.