Google apologised for the mysterious appearance of the Aadhaar helpline number on the contact lists of smartphones across India without user consent, a day after the issue kicked up a furore on social media.
The search engine giant said it had âinadvertently codedâ the distress helpline â112â and that of the Unique Identification Authority of India in its the setup wizard for the Android operating system.
âOur internal review 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 for use in India and it has remained there since,â a company spokesperson said in a statement.
Google also apologized for âany concern this might have causedâ, and assured that itâs not a situation of unauthorized access of Android devices. âUsers can manually delete the number from their devices.â
The statement said the numbers get stored in a âuserâs contact list and can get transferred to the contacts of any new deviceâ.
The search engine giant said it will work to rectify this in an upcoming release of the SetUp wizard and the same will be made available to original equipment manufacturers over the next few weeks.
Earlier in the day, the UIDAI had said the toll-free number 1800-300-1947 appearing in contact lists of smartphones was outdated and invalid, clarifying that it has not asked or communicated to any manufacturer or service provider for providing any such facility.
The Cellular Operators Association of India, too, denied that any of its members had loaded any unknown numbers on any mobile phone of their subscribers.
The incident came to light on Thursday when a French security expert, who goes by the online alias Elliot Alderson, asked people on Twitter if they had the UIDAI helpline stored in their smartphones. Within hours, hundreds of people posted screenshots and replied in the affirmative, saying that it was done without their explicit consent.