India issues notice to Cambridge Analytica in Facebook data breach case

New Delhi: The ministry of electronics and information technology on Friday issued a notice to London-based analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, seeking response on issues related to data of Indians collected by the firm or its intermediaries or associates.

The government has sent six questions to the company and have sought responses by 31 March, failing which it may entail legal action, ministry said in a statement.

Cambridge Analytica is at the centre of the Facebook data breach controversy where data of 50 million users in the US was compromised to benefit Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.

The IT ministry notice seeks clarity from Cambridge Analytica whether it engaged in any assignment to utilize data of Indians in regards to the breach. The government has also sought the details of the entities who have engaged the firm for any intention to profile and influence voting behaviour.

According to a statement by IT ministry, such a notice was sent out to the accused company as 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”.

“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,” the statement added.

The IT ministry also said that CERT-In, the national nodal agency that deals with cybersecurity threats, has issued an advisory which lays down best security practices to be followed by social media users in order to safeguard personally identifiable information on social network sites.

On Thursday, Ovleno Business Intelligence Pvt. Ltd (OBI), the Indian affiliate of Cambridge Analytica, denied use of any data collected from the public without their consent for any of its political analysis. OBI vice-president Himanshu Sharma also denied having worked with Cambridge Analytica on any project related to social media.

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 statement said.

Mint on Friday reported that the government is planning to come up with a long-term strategy to secure data on Indians, especially those using social media.

On Wednesday, IT and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had accused the Congress of indulging in “theft of online data” to help with its election campaigns. He had also warned Facebook of stringent legal action if it was found misusing data on Indians.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in turn, targeted the BJP-led union government saying that the party has “invented story on Congress and data theft” to deflect attention from the controversy over 39 Indians who died in Iraq.livemint


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