UIDAI Helpline: Google says was hardcoded into Android setup

The mysterious addition of the former hotline of UID Authority of India, which spooked out Android users by mysteriously appearing on their phones, was hardcoded into the Android set-up program, Google has said.

Responding to concerns of users’ phones being hacked by some secret agency, which then ‘loaded’ UIDAI’s helpline number, a Google spokesperson apologized for the scare it caused.

“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,” he added.

The setup wizard is a program that helps users install Android on their devices.

“We are sorry for any concern that this might have caused, and would like to assure everyone that this is not a situation of an unauthorised access of their Android devices. Users can manually delete the number from their devices,” said the spokesperson.

The UIDAI, which has been on the receiving side of privacy advocates’ ire almost from the beginning, had to issue a strongly worded denial that it was behind the whole episode, or that it had directed telecom operators to load the now-outdated number onto users’ phones.

Telecom operators too issued a clarification that they had nothing to do with the whole issue, leaving the possibility that it was Google, an app maker or a fabulously skilled hacker who got into nearly half the smartphones in India.

The Google spokesperson further said Google will work towards fixing the problem in an upcoming release of SetUp wizard which will be made available to handset makers over the next few weeks.