The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has initiated a preliminary enquiry into the issue of British consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica and Global Science Research allegedly mining social media data of millions of Indians illegally.
CBI is probing if Cambridge Analytica allegedly received data from Global Science Research, which employed “illegal means” to harvest personal data of Indians using Facebook. The PE, the first step of any probe before an FIR is filed, has been initiated after receiving a reference in this regard from the Centre, CBI officials said. Data mining and analysis firm Cambridge Analytica earlier faced allegations that it used personal information harvested from 87 million Facebook accounts to help Donald Trump win the 2016 US presidential election.
Union Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had told Rajya Sabha last month that the probe will be handed over to the CBI. He had said there were also reports that user data was “illegally accessed by hardware manufacturers who had tie-ups with Facebook”. Facebook has reported that they are not aware of any misuse of information, including Indian users’ information”. Facebook has over 20 crore users in India. The Mark Zuckerberg-owned company had said that the data of about 87 million people — mostly in the US — might have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.
After the data breach came to light, the IT Ministry had in March and April sent communications to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica seeking clarification on the issue. “Facebook responded that they will streamline their internal processes regarding handling of personal data. They stated that the case of Cambridge Analytica was a case of breach of trust. They promised to take various other steps to ensure that such breaches do not recur,” Prasad had said.
Prasad said that CA initially responded that data of Indians was not breached, but this was not in conformity with what was reported by Facebook. Cambridge Analytica did not respond to a subsequent notice.