The Central Bureau of Investigation has initiated a preliminary inquiry against British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica and Global Science Research for allegedly harvesting personal data of several Indians from Facebook, PTI reported on Wednesday.
Officials said the Central Bureau of Investigation would now decide if the allegations in the data breach scandal deserve a full inquiry.
The case involves the misuse of data of an estimated 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica, which shut down in May. In April, Facebook said that the data of more than five lakh Indian users had been compromised in the scandal. The breach occurred after 335 Indian Facebook users downloaded an app owned by a company called Global Science Research, which later sold the information to Cambridge Analytica.
The Centre sent notices to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica twice in March and April – the second one was sent as the responses to the first one were “cryptic”, the government had said. The government had asked the two firms to respond by May 10.
Union Law and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Rajya Sabha in July that the Central Bureau of Investigation would investigate the scandal and that Cambridge Analytica had not responded to the Centre’s notice. “Therefore, it is suspected that Cambridge Analytica may have been involved in illegally obtaining data of Indians which could be misused,” Prasad had said. The Centre has “entrusted the issue to be investigated by the CBI for possible violation of Information Technology Act, 2000 and IPC”, he had added.
The social media company has been facing tremendous criticism since it was found that they were aware that Cambridge Analytica had been harvesting its users’ data for years. Cambridge Analytica was initially accused of using the information of 50 million Facebook users to bolster US President Donald Trump’s campaign before the 2016 elections.
In the aftermath of the scandal, lawmakers of various countries asked Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear before them to explain the data breach. Last month, the Indian government refused to share copies of responses Facebook gave in connection with the scandal.