India Issues Notice to Cambridge Analytica Over Facebook Data Breach Row

The Indian IT ministry has sent six questions to Cambridge Analytica, and sought answers by March 31.


In the wake of the data breach row, the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued a notice to the scandal-hit analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, asking for information related to data of Indians collected by the company or its associates.

The government sent six questions to the UK-based firm and sought answers by March 31, the failure of which will entail legal action, the ministry said in a statement on March 23.

The notice seeks clarity from the firm on whether it has utilized data of Indians. It also sought details of the entities who have approached the firm with the intention to profile voters and influence voting behavior.

“Note has also been taken of alleged claims whereby elections in India were sought to be influenced through questionable means. The fairness of Indian democracy and electoral process is a matter of pride and any attempt to influence the sanctity of the electoral franchise through dubious and questionable means is unacceptable. In particular, all intermediaries and their associates have the legal obligation to maintain security, confidentiality and sanctity of data and any unauthorized use of data can entail legal action,” the statement says.

Cambridge Analytica is at the center of the data breach controversy in which data of 50 million Facebook users in the United States was allegedly used to make voter profiles with an aim to help U.S President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

After Indian IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s statement on March 21, in which he came down strongly on Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the recent notice to Cambridge Analytica recognized the role of social media and Zuckerberg’s apology.

“While the government is cognizant of the positive role played by social media in promoting awareness and acting as a tool for social cohesion and empowerment; breach of privacy cannot be tolerated. In this regard it is pertinent to observe that the CEO of Facebook, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for the mistakes his company had made in handling data belonging to its users, and has promised tougher steps to restrict access to such information,” the statement added.

Ovleno Business Intelligence Pvt. Ltd (OBI), the Indian affiliate of Cambridge Analytica, on March 22 denied working with the UK firm for any social media-based projects and said it had not used data collected from public without consent. The suspended Ovleno’s website had reportedly named the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress and the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar as clients. Ovleno is a joint venture between SCI India and SCL Group, London. SCL Group is the parent firm of Cambridge Analytica.

Meanwhile, Facebook took out full page ads in nine major U.S and UK newspapers on March 25 to apologize for the data breach. The ads, which ran in prominent papers such as Mail on Sunday, The New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, reflected Zuckerberg’s public statements released throughout the week.

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