Every controversy is followed by WhatsApp rumours. After UIDAI and telecom operators denied any role in the inclusion of the helpline (1800-300-1947) in users’ phonebooks, Google on August 4, 2018 claimed responsibility for the inclusion of the number in its Android setup wizard in 2014.
BOOM received multiple messages on its helpline (7700906111) from users to check for veracity. The message asks people to check their contact lists and delete the UIDAI helpline as it is a hacker number. These messages are going around citing the source as Maharashtra Cyber Security Cell or News Channels.
One of the message says, ‘Please check if a number starting from 1800 in name of UIDAI has been automatically added to your phone contacts. If yes, delete it immediately, it is a spam of the day. Source: Maharashtra Cyber Security Cell.’
However, speaking to BOOM, Balsing Rajput, SP Cyber, Maharashtra said they have not pushed out any such advisory. He said that that users should refer to the clarifications issued by UIDAI and Google.
Another message says, “Guys.. pls check Ur contact list.. and kindly delete the “UIDAI” name number which was saved in Ur contact list by automatically.. as per latest news on TV channel.. this is a hacker number.”
Please check if a number starting from 1800 or 1600 in name of UIDAI has been automatically added to your phone contacts. If yes, delete it immediately. It is a spam of the day.
Source: Maharashtra Cyber Security Cell pic.twitter.com/Ots8fiIuY8
— Vishwu Bhoir (@mrmyworld2) August 4, 2018
UIDAI helpline in your contact list: Is your phone hacked?
NO. Late Friday evening, Google issued a statement taking responsibility for what they claimed was done ‘inadvertently’. Google said that the number was added in Android’s setup wizard for India in 2014 along with the emergency helpline 112, and since then it has been there. It also said that users can delete the number manually from their list if they want to.
These numbers get saved in the user’s phone books by default and can be transferred to any new device which may have a different operating system. This explains why some non-Android users also found it in their contact lists.
After two days of suspense and outrage on social media, @GoogleIndia finally clears the mystery over the UIDAI number in Android phones. Says users can delete the number from their devices pic.twitter.com/hVzvo7WTtT
— BOOM FactCheck (@boomlive_in) August 3, 2018
BOOM spoke to cyber security expert Jiten Jain to gain more clarity. He rubbished the rumours saying that the “mere presence of a contact does not mean that the security of your phone is at threat”. He said all the messages that claim that your phone is hacked or ask you to back up you data or format your system are false.
Some public service numbers can be added by telecom operators, mobile manufacturers or the operating system developer. In this case, the number has come from the end of Google who is the owner and developer of Android operating system, he said.
However, he added that Google should not have added the number without the instructions of the government.
Sneha Alexander is a policy analyst and writes data fact checks. She enjoys looking for stories behind the numbers and presents it to the reader in a friendly format. She has fact-checked some of the country's top ministers and media publications for the wrong use of data. Her fact check stories have been carried by several other prominent digital websites.