India’s top investigative agency will now probe the activities of British political research firm Cambridge Analytica (CA) in the country.
This comes months after reports surfaced saying CA had allegedly collected and misused private data of millions of Facebook users globally to influence voter opinion. In March, the Indian government sought clarity on the issue from both Facebook and CA.
While Facebook admitted that 562,455 users in India were “potentially affected” by the breach, CA denied it.
“Cambridge Analytica responded that they do not have any Facebook data on Indian citizens. To a second notice, Facebook informed that Cambridge Analytica had violated Facebook’s policy. Cambridge Analytica have not responded to the second notice,” minister for electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply (pdf) to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, on Aug. 01.
Given that its earlier reply was “not adequately convincing” and was inconsistent with what Facebook said, the government has initiated a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe, Prasad said.
With the 2019 general elections just months away, there are fears of misuse of voter data in India. Hence, the need for clarity on the activities of companies like CA.
This also comes amidst intense debates over data security in the country. Just last week, a committee set up under former supreme court justice, BN Srikrishna, submitted a draft of the Personal Data Protection bill, 2018, which suggests making it mandatory for companies to store a copy of Indians’ data within the country itself.