Aadhaar: Who is pushing UIDAI helpline number on your mobile phones without consent?
Post the challenge from RS Sharma, Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to harm him through his Aadhaar number, it has now come to fore that the helpline number (1800-300-1947) of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), is getting automatically saved in contact list on several mobile phones. While, some mobile phones, like Realme from Oppo, certainly come preloaded with the UIDAI number, some people are finding this number when they update software of their mobile devices from Motorola, OnePlus, Samsung and Nokia. Few user of iPhone also found this helpline number on their mobiles.
Interestingly, this 'default' helpline number found in mobile phones is 'temporarily not available' as UIDAI uses 1947 as its toll free helpline number.
French hacker Elliot Alderson (@fs0c131y) asked people on Twitter if they had the UIDAI helpline in their phonebooks.
Within hours, many people shared screenshots and confirmed it was indeed the case for Android phones. However, it is not clear how the UIDAI helpline number got into their phonebooks without their explicit consent.
Earlier in March 2016, as per suggestion from the TRAI, the Telecom Commission allowed use of 112 as single emergency number for all services like police, fire and ambulance. In addition, some emergency numbers, which are allowed in India, are 100 for Police, 101 for fire, 102 for ambulance, 108 for disaster management, 181 for women's helpline, 182 for Railway helpline, 1097 for AIDS helpline, and 1098 for child helpline.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) had directed
all telecom service providers to map 112, the single emergency number with existing emergency numbers in all states and union territories. The project was to be made operational by all States and UTs under the supervision of Ministry of Home Affairs through Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).
When an emergency call is received at the PSAP, it would be answered by a specially trained officer, call taker or operator of respective state and UT that will transfer the call on the type of emergency, dispatchers to police, fire medical and other response mechanisms.
However, there is no mention of UIDAI helpline number in any of these mandatory contact numbers in any mobile phones or on the SIM cards.
Even the Draft National Digital Communications Policy-2018, talks about unified emergency response mechanism through 112 services in all areas. There is no mention of UIDIA's helpline number anywhere.
Arnav Gupta, co-founder at Coding Blocks, who had earlier worked at Micromax developing handsets, told the Business Standard
that phone manufacturers are unlikely to add UIDAI helpline number in mobile devices on their own. “Every Android phone tries to connect to the internet and as soon as it does, it downloads a basic list of emergency contacts of each country. In India, it is distress number 112 and the UIDAI helpline,” Gupta told the newspaper.
He also explained that 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.
Moneylife sent emails to UIDAI CEO Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey and senior officials from DoT and TRAI. We will update this article with their responses as and when we receive it.
Meanwhile, UIDAI in a statement on Twitter, clarified that 18003001947 is not its valid toll free number and some vested interest are trying to create unwarranted confusion in the public. "UIDAI has not asked or communicated to any manufacturer or service provider for providing any such facility whatsoever. We have 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," it added.
Replying to UIDAI, Mr Alderson, the French hacker, said, press statement issued by the Authority in 2014 shows setting up of a helpline with toll free numbers 18003001947 or short code 1947.
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