The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has started a preliminary inquiry against Cambridge Analytica, which has been suspected of harvesting and breaching the data of millions of Indians without their consent, reports Mint. The CBI will try to find out whether Cambridge Analytica, via Facebook, received data from Global Science Research, another UK based data analysis company, illegally and if it was harvested and misused. GSR had created an app to be used on Facebook which would harvest data which was then provided to Cambridge Analytica.
Earlier this year, Facebook told the Indian government that about 562,455 Indians may have been “potentially affected” in the Cambridge Analytica case. The Trump-linked firm had then said that they have no Facebook data on India’s 200 million Facebook users.
In a reply to a Lok Sabha question (pdf), Minister of Electronics and IT, RS Prasad said that in a second notice, Facebook informed the government that Cambridge Analytica had violated Facebook’s policy. “Cambridge Analytica have not responded to the second notice. Since the reply given by Cambridge Analytica was not adequately convincing, and that there was divergence in the replies given by Facebook & Cambridge Analytica, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been asked to investigate this matter with regard to possible misuse by Cambridge Analytica.” said the minister.
The India government has served notices to both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook after the social media giant revealed that Indians may have been exposed to the breach. Facebook has been served three notices by the centre as of now, and the last one sought an explanation over reports of the company’s data sharing partnerships with phone manufacturers.
In a response to the center, Facebook said that 61 companies got extended access to user data and, in some cases, their friends’ data. These firms had access to this information even if users’ friends had strict privacy settings. The firms which got an extra six months to comply included Snap (which owns Snapchat), Spotify, Hootsuite, Uber as well as American streaming app Saavn, which recently got acquired by Reliance Jio.
Whistleblower’s revelations on Cambridge Analytica’s India activities
Christopher Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica employee who unveiled the consulting firm’s misuse of Facebook data, said that the firm had worked extensively in India and the current principal opposition party, Congress had been one of its clients. Wylie made this statement while deposing in front of a panel of British MPs.
Wylie said, “I believe their client was Congress, but I know that they’ve done all kinds of projects both regionally…I don’t remember a national project, I know regionally.”…“I mean India is so big, one state could be as big as Britain. But they do have offices there, they do have staff there. I believe I have some documentation on India which I can also provide to the committee,” he added.