The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on Friday denied it had any role to play in a toll-free number purportedly belonging to Aadhaar's nodal agency appearing in the address books of several users’ phones by default.
"In the wake of some media reports on default inclusion of the UIDAI’s outdated and invalid Toll free number 1800-300-1947 in contact list of Android phones, it is clarified that (the) UIDAI has not asked or communicated to any manufacturer or service provider for providing any such facility whatsoever [as a pre-loaded number]," the UIDAI said in a statement.
UIDAI has reiterated that it has not asked or advised anyone including any telecom service providers or mobile manufacturers or Android to include 18003001947 or 1947 in the default list of public service numbers.— Aadhaar (@UIDAI) August 3, 2018
The agency attributed the development to “some vested interest” that was trying to create confusion among the public. The UIDAI said its valid toll-free number is 1947, which has been functional for the past two years.
The denial was issued after many smartphone users posted screenshots of the number attributed to the UIDAI and wondered out loud how it got there.
It is unclear how many people were affected, whether only those with Aadhaar numbers were hit, and whether the development could be termed as a hack. While the UIDAI alluded to the phone number popping up on Android phones, a number of iPhone users also said they were affected.
French security expert Elliot Alderson also tweeted about the incident:
Hi @UIDAI,— Elliot Alderson (@fs0c131y) August 2, 2018
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?
Mobile operators Airtel and Vodafone both said they were looking into the matter but made it clear that they had no role to play in the incident.
Industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) issued the following statement: “The inclusion of a certain unknown number in the phonebooks of various mobile handsets is not from any telecom service provider.”
Spokespersons for Apple and Google said they are investigating the matter while Xiaomi and Samsung didn't respond to requests for comment till the time of filing this report.