India has now initiated an official preliminary enquiry (PE) into Cambridge Analytica and Global Sciences Research’s role in a suspected breach of Indian Facebook users’ data.
The decision came at a time when Cambridge Analytica (CA) has shut its operations and Facebook is bracing for a $5.7 Bn tax bill in the US over its Irish subsidiary. The social media giant has also been fined $663K by the UK government for letting CA mine people’s personal data in that country.
According to a CBI official, “A PE has been registered against the two companies — the UK-based data analytics company Cambridge Analytica and Global Sciences Research (GSR). This is being done to probe if Cambridge Analytica had picked data from GSR Ltd, which relates to the personal data of Indians on Facebook. The probe will see if data was harvested and misused.”
CA is not functional anymore and its staff have already set up a new firm named Auspex International, which will be “ethically based” and will offer “boutique geopolitical consultancy” services. Unlike the US and the UK/EU administration, no enquiry has been initiated against Facebook in India, which is pretty much functional and has been accused of letting CA mine the personal data of 5.62 Lakh Indians.
Interestingly, there have been no CBI investigations registered against the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) either, for the millions of data leaks that have been reported at various nodes of the Aadhaar system. Instead, the recently released draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 further strengthens the UIDAI, maintaining that only the authority can file a case in Aadhaar-related issues.
Before initiating the investigation, the Indian government had issued a couple of notices against the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica as well as the social media platform Facebook on personal data leaks.
Indian Union minister for information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad had also warned Facebook about “abusing” its users’ data and privacy. Accepting the “trust breach”, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologised for the mistrust created in wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Facebook also assured that it will take a series of measures to ensure that the social platform is not misused by any agency or anyone to influence election results, be it in India or in other countries.
While experts believe it’s a half-hearted enquiry as former Cambridge Analytica employees haven’t been debarred from setting up other companies, it must be noted that CA is just one of the companies whose name came to the fore for having harvested and misused user data. Zuckerberg had raised suspicions that there might be more companies like Cambridge Analytica indulging in such unethical practices.
Therefore, if the Indian government is really serious about Indian users’ data, it must widen the scope of its investigation, bringing Facebook, and other related firms into the loop.
[The development was reported by Livemint.]