Google bails UIDAI out of misery by taking blame for toll-free number mysteriously appearing in people’s phonebooks


Amidst raging controversy over the UIDAI phone number having sneaked into millions of users’ mobile phones mysteriously without their knowledge, Google has come forward taking the blame for goof-ups.

In its statement, the tech giant said, “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.”

It continued, “Since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device. We are sorry for any concern that this might have caused, and would like to assure everyone that this is not a situation of any unauthorised access of their Android devices. Users can manually delete the number from their devices.”

The statement by Google said that it will ‘work towards fixing this in an upcoming release of SetUp wizard which will be made available to OEMs over the next few weeks.’

The Centre’s Narendra Modi government was accused of lying after hundreds of thousands of users on Monday realised their phone contacts list had a UIDAI toll-free helpline number saved by default. UIDAI is the central government agency, tasked with rolling out Aadhaar in India.

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.

One of the reasons why iPhone users may have found the UIDAI number in their phonebooks was because they may have synced their contacts with their gmail accounts.

Many users and journalists had suspected a dirty design behind the UIDAI number appearing in their phones as one journalist wrote, “if the government can have a phone number sneak into your contacts list without your knowledge, imagine what they are capable of taking out of your device without you realising it.”

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) denied any role in the matter by its associated telcos while responding to an emailed query. “The inclusion of a certain unknown number in the phonebooks of various mobile handsets is not from any telecom service provider,” COAI was quoted by NDTV.