CBI books Cambridge Analytica, alleged strategist of Congress for 2014 elections, over illegal harvesting of Facebook data in India

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In a major development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a criminal case against UK-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica for illegally harvesting the data of 5.62 lakh Facebook users in India.

As per reports, a preliminary inquiry in the data theft case has revealed that another firm named Global Science Research Limited had created an app titled, ‘thisisyourdigitallife’ to collect data from Facebook users in the country. The app had authorisation from Facebook itself to gather specific datasets from users for supposed ‘research and academic purposes’.

Reportedly, Global Science Research Limited then shared the user data with Cambridge Analytica, thereby allowing its use for commercial purposes. Although Facebook has claimed to have destroyed the data collected by the two firms in 2016-2017, the CBI investigation did not find any evidence to support these claims. As such, a case has also been registered against Global Science Research Limited for data piracy.

Back in 2018, the central investigative agency had initiated an inquiry into the data theft case. IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has stated in July 2018 that a CBI probe will be initiated in the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica case. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, had earlier admitted that the Facebook data of 8.7 crores was shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Following the revelation, the IT Ministry wrote letters to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, seeking clarification on the allegations of data theft. The role of the UK-based firm came under the scanner, post the 2016 US Presidential elections. The company had claimed to have worked in India to secure victory in the Bihar State Assembly elections of 2010.

Direct link between Congress and Cambridge Analytica

The Congress party has been in denial mode over its alleged hiring of CA and the allegations of using voter’s personal data to expose social and demographical fault lines to strategize its poll campaign. But several shreds of evidence have emerged showing that it has been in business with the firm.

Earlier, an image of a poster with the Congress symbol hanging in Cambridge Analytica’s office has raised eyebrows of political observers in India. The image has led to heated debates on Indian TV channels on Congress link to Cambridge Analytica. In an interview to Barkha Dutt, the Congress social media chief Divya Spandana/Ramya has claimed that Cambridge Analytica approached the Congress party’s leaders with some proposals but it was never given a contract/deal.

OpIndia Staff: Staff reporter at OpIndia