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Is Aadhaar Helpline Number Saved in Your Phone

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Today, several smartphone users in India were surprised with UIDAI’s Aadhaar toll-free helpline number saved in their phonebooks by default. Read on to know more…

This morning, several people in India were a bit surprised and confused, as the UIDAI’s Aadhaar helpline number was saved into their mobile phonebook by default. It is only last week when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman posted his Aadhaar number on micro-blogging platform Twitter and challenged hackers to ‘harm him’. Now, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), is questioned once again on social media on the. But this time, it’s due to the UIDAI’s old helpline number ‘1800-300-1947’ is being saved by default in people’s phone contact list on most Android phones in India. The UIDAI’s old helpline number, got into thousands of people’s phonebooks without their consent. The surprising factor is that ‘1800-300-1947’ is actually an old helpline number that does not work and now the new number is ‘1947’. What’s surprising is the fact that how UIDAI’s old helpline number was pre-saved on people’s phones without their consent.

Unanswered Questions
On Twitter, people raised this concern to the officials of UIDAI and asked how its old helpline number got saved automatically into their mobile phones.

Initially, some of the officials suspected that the phone manufacturers must have found the helpline number to be as useful as the emergency number and must have added it. But this was unlikely as women’s helpline and fire emergency are not added automatically. Experts say that every Android phone tries to connect to the Internet and once it’s connected, it downloads a basic list of emergency contacts of each country. But again, for this process the government would have had to issue some guidelines to phone manufacturers to download this specific number, even as some operators seemed to be loading the UIDAI helpline in the SIM card as well.

Alderson Factor
Last week, the self-proclaimed French security expert and Aadhaar critic Elliot Alderson revealed the personal contact details of TRAI Chairman RS Sharma on Twitter. Earlier, Alderson in a series of tweets had posted the mobile number, PAN number, alternative phone number, email ID, personal phone number, WhatsApp profile picture and some other data linked to the Aadhaar number belonging to TRAI Chairman RS Sharma.

On the latest issue, the French hacker who goes by the Twitter handle ‘@fs0c131y’ first brought to people’s notice that the UIDAI’s number was being saved by default on people’s mobile phones.

The French security expert, asked UIDAI on micro-blogging platform Twitter

Elliot Alderson
@fs0c131y

Hi @UIDAI,

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?

Regards,

12:52 PM – Aug 2, 2018

UIDAI’s Reaction
After the controversy, today evening, UIDAI issued a statement saying that it has not asked or communicated to any manufacturer or mobile service provider for providing any such facility.

Accusing some vested interest people of trying to create unwarranted confusion in the public, the Aadhaar nodal agency also clarified that ‘1800-300-1947’ is not a valid UIDAI Toll free number and that the toll-free number functional for more than the last two years is 1947.

A Brief Conclusion
The issue of UIDAI’s Aadhaar old helpline number saved in our phonebooks by default raises several questions. Who put the number on our phones? How did they save the number in our phone? What is their real motive? Can this type of scare be prevented in future?

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