The Indian government has asked Cambridge Analytica – the firm at the centre of a data breach scandal involving Facebook – to report whether it had utilised the information of Indian users in any of its assignments, NDTV reported. The British firm has till March 31 to respond to the six-point notice, which asks whether the firm had used the data of Indians in any way, the names of the entities that employed its services, how it accessed such information, how this data was used and whether the information was used to carry out any profiling.
Cambridge Analytica is accused of using the private data of more than 40 million Facebook users to help United States President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign influence voters. Apart from using the private data of millions, Cambridge Analytica is also accused of using shell companies, sex workers, fake news and bribes to sway election outcomes in several countries.
This is the first step the Indian government has taken against the online data analytics company since the illegal use of user data was reported earlier in March. Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad had warned Facebook of strong action and said India would summon its founder and chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, to India if the data of Indian users was compromised. However, the notice issued on Friday did not mention any action against the social media company.
The data breach scandal had also triggered a political controversy in the country, with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress accused each other of having used the services of Cambridge Analytica to influence voters. The BJP had questioned whether the Congress depended on data manipulation and theft to woo voters. In response, the Congress accused the saffron party of spreading white lies and trying to divert attention from the death of 39 Indians in Iraq.