Govt asks Cambridge Analytica if it used Indian users’ data

The UK based firm has been asked to disclose name of entities with whom they have engaged in India

GN Bureau | March 24, 2018


#Mark Zuckerberg   #privacy   #data   #Facebook   #Cambridge Analytica   #Meity   #Ravi Shankar Prasad  
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

The ministry of electronics and information technology (MEITY) has issued notice to Cambridge Analytica seeking its response on its alleged exploitation of Indian Facebook users data. The ministry has sought reply from the British political consulting firm by March 31.  

“The ministry has issued a notice, in the first instance, to Cambridge Analytica, wherein the serious breach of propriety and misuse of data intended to profile and influence voting behaviour has been highlighted,” the ministry said in a statement.  
 
“Reference has also been made to several accounts in the media reporting incidents of gross abuse of social media platform to influence the sanctity of polling process. Note has also been taken of alleged claims whereby elections in India were sought to be influenced through questionable means,” the ministry said.
 
On March 17, foreign media reported that Cambridge Analytica illegally collected and harvested data of 50 million Facebook users for profiling and micro-targeting intended to influence voter behaviour. The Indian media has reported that Cambridge Analytica’s Indian associate Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI), headed by Anish Tyagi, son of JD(U) leader KC Tyagi, has managed elections for the BJP and the Congress. The OBI portal mentions Congress and the BJP as its clients.  
 
It is interesting to note that the ministry hasn't issued notice to Facebook. In fact, it cited its founder Mark Zuckerberg’s apology in the ongoing data breach controversy. “In this regard it is pertinent to observe that the CEO of Facebook, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg has apologised 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 ministry said. 
 
There are other downstream players such as Cambridge Analytica and its alleged associates who have been reported to be involved in the data breach, it said.
 
“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 ministry said.
 
In its notice to Cambridge Analytica, the ministry sought responses to the following questions:
  • Whether they have been engaged in any assignment to utilize data of Indians from the above cited breach?
  • Who are the entities that have engaged them for the above?
  • How did they come to be in possession of such data?
  • Was consent taken from the individuals?
  • How such data collected was used?
  • Was there any profiling done on the basis of such data? 
 

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