Facebook Data Breach: India IT Ministry Seeks 6 Answers


New Delhi: In the data breach scam Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology on Friday has asked Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the centre of Facebook users’ seeking its response by March 31 on whether it was involved in misuse of data to profile Indians and influence their voting behaviour.

The notice also sought the company’s response on the entities which engaged Cambridge Analytica, the method used by it for possession of data and whether consent was taken from users.

“The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, Government of India, has issued a notice… To Cambridge Analytica, wherein the serious breach of propriety and misuse of data intended to profile and influence voting behaviour has been highlighted,” the IT ministry said in a statement.

The IT Ministry in its notice sought immediate response on these six questions:

1. Whether they have been engaged in any assignment to utilize data of Indians from the above cited breach?
2. Who are the entities that have engaged them for the above?
3. How did they come to be in possession of such data?
4. Was consent taken from the individuals?
5. How was such data collected used?
6. Was there any profiling done on the basis of such data?

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“The Government is deeply concerned about such developments and is committed to ensure the protection of the fundamental right of privacy and safety and security of data for every citizen of India. There have also been imputations that such data could also have been used to influence the behaviour of individuals,” the IT ministry statement said.

Earlier this week, Law and IT Minster Ravi Shankar Prasad had warned social media giant Facebook of “stringent” action for any attempt to influence polls through data theft, and had even threatened to summon its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, if needed.

The warning came as BJP launched a scathing attack on the Congress, questioning the party on its relation with Cambridge Analytica, the data mining firm accused of harvesting personal user data from Facebook illegally to influence polls in several countries. Facebook, which has over two billion users globally, including over 200 million in India, had faced backlash on the data scandal issue, prompting Zuckerberg to issue an apology for the “major breach of trust”, and promising to take steps to protect user data.

Facebook has also tweaked its usage policy for third party apps, including login process, to ensure limited access to user information.