A strange phone number creeped into Indian contact lists, and no one knew why

Smartphone users in India are demanding answers after people on
Twitter began posting screenshots of their phones’ contact
lists with a strange number included in it. Users are claiming
that they didn’t add the contact to their devices, and no one
company or person knows how it got there in the first place.

The contact, 1-800-300-1947, is an old toll-free number for the
Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), and it’s been
showing up in contacts lists originating from Android devices.
The same number has showed up on iPhones as well, but only if
its owner imported those contacts from an Android device
before. People are just now widely noticing the number’s
inclusion, but it’s uncertain when this contact was first
forced onto phones. It appears that it could have started years
ago.

UIDAI was created by the Indian government in 2009 to produce
12-digit unique identification numbers for residents and run
the database in which the information is held. The numbers work
similarly to Social Security numbers in the States: they’re
used to make it more difficult for people to stew up fake
identities and to help easily identify people.

The government body denied that it had anything to do with
forcing the number onto devices. In a statement, UIDAI said it
“has reiterated that it has not asked or advised anyone
including any telecom service providers or mobile manufacturers
or Android to include [the contact] in the default list of
public service numbers.”

Security experts and regular users have taken Android, service
providers, and the Indian government up to task and have been
demanding answers online. Others are performing their own tests
and experiments to pinpoint how the number was placed on their
devices without their previous knowledge or formal permission.
Some claim that Google is to blame after tests showed that the
number only populated on Android devices that are “Made in
India.” Others believed the number was pushed by their service
providers, like Vodaphone, which
denied responsibility to Indian Express
earlier
today.

Despite the online outrage over privacy and security concerns,
no governmental body, regulator, telecom, or device maker has
come forward to claim responsibility.

The Verge reached out to Google for comment, but as of
press time, it has not responded.

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