Updated: January 22, 2021 3:47:37 pm
The CBI on Friday registered a case against British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica for “illegal harvesting of personal data from Facebook users in India” for commercial purpose.
The CBI has alleged that the company, in conspiracy with Global Science Research Ltd (GSRL), illegally harvested data of 335 Facebook users and their 5.62 lakh contacts in India through an app and used the same for commercial purposes.
It has listed both Cambridge Analytica and GSRL as accused in its FIR registered under various sections of the Information Technology Act and also accused them of criminal conspiracy under the IPC.
Based on a complaint from Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the CBI had registered a preliminary enquiry against Cambridge Analytica in July, 2018. Following completion of the enquiry, the agency registered an FIR on January 19.
“Enquiry has found that Global Science Research enetered into a criminal conspiracy with M/s Cambridge Analytica (UK) Limited during 2014 and right to use the illegally harvested datasets was given to M/s Cambridge Analytica (UK) Limited for commercial purposes,” the CBI FIR reads.
According to the CBI, its enquiry revealed that Dr Aleksandr Kogan, founder and director of GSRL, UK, had created an App “thisisyourdigitallife”. As per the platform policy of Facebook, the app was authorised to collect certain specific data of the users for academic and research purposes. The app, however, illegally collected additional unauthorised data of the user as well as of their friend’s network on Facebook.
“This data was collected without the knowledge and consent of the App users. This data includes demographic information, pages liked on FB, contents of private messages etc. FB conveyed that 335 users in India had installed this APP. They have estimated that data of approximately 5.62 lakh additional users who were part of the friend’s network of these 335 users has also been unauthorizedly harvested by the App,” CBI has alleged in the FIR.
According to the CBI, Facebook had collected written certificates from Koganand Cambridge Analytica (UK) during 2016-2017 declaring that all such data obtained by them through the app was accounted for and destroyed.
“This fact confirms that M/s Global Science Research Limited, UK illegally harvested datasets and provided the same to M/s Cambridge Analytica (UK) Limited for commercial purposes,” CBI said. It, however, said that it could not authenticate the veracity of the claims of GSRL and Cambridge that they had destroyed the said datasets.
During the preliminary inquiry, 335 app users were contacted but only six of them responded and could be examined. “They unanimously stated that they were misled by the APP and were unaware of the fact that their personal and friend’s data was harvested. They also stated that they would not have used the APP if they knew it would do so,” the CBI said.
The case was referred to CBI by the government after a series of media reports suggested Cambridge Analytica and GSRL had illegally harvested Facebook users data in India.
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