New Delhi: In a big development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked two UK-based political consulting firms; Cambridge Analytica and Global Science Private Limited in connection with data theft of 5.62 lakh Facebook users in India. A preliminary inquiry was initiated by CBI in the data theft case in 2018, after finding the allegations true, the federal agency registered a case against these UK based firms.
As per reports, the investigation also revealed that Global Science Research Limited had created an app titled, ‘thisisyourdigitallife’ to collect data from Facebook users in India. The app had also sought authorisation from Facebook itself to gather specific datasets from users for supposed ‘research and academic purposes’. However, this user data was instead shared with the 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, however, did not find any evidence to support these claims. Meanwhile, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, had earlier admitted that the Facebook data of 8.7 crores was shared with Cambridge Analytica.
Furthermore, to ascertain the allegations of data theft, CBI sought details from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica for alleged violations, misuse of data, the extent of data leakage of Indian FB users, possible misuse of the data by Cambridge Analytica for profiling and influence elections in the country.
To note, what made everyone suspicious of Congress and Cambridge Analytica’s links was an image of a poster with the Congress symbol hanging in Cambridge Analytica’s office. The image created a lot of controversies and was covered by nearly every media house in the country. One of the renowned journalist Barkha Dutt, had even interviewed the Congress social media chief Divya Spandana/Ramya who had claimed that Cambridge Analytica approached the Congress party’s leaders with some proposals but it was never given a contract/deal.
However, Facebook in response had said, “Data of 5.62 lakh Indians users might have been illegally harvested,” whereas, Cambridge Analytica on the other hand replied that “they only received data of UK users from the Global Science Private Limited.”
“Enquiry has revealed that Aleksandr Kogan, Founder-Director of Global Science Private Limited had created an application “thisisyourdigitallife”. As per the platform policy of Facebook, this application was authorised to collect certain specific data of users for academic and research purposes. The APP, however, illegally collected data of users and their friend’s network on Facebook,” read FIR copy filed by CBI.
Meanwhile, FB in its response, told CBI that this application was used by 335 users in India. However, through this app, Facebook friends of these users were also targeted and data of 5.62 lakh was illegally stolen without the knowledge of the users. In fact, CBI also got details from 6 users of these applications who told the federal probe agency that they suspect that their data including their friends’ data were stolen.
“Global Science Research Limited, UK, entered into a criminal conspiracy with Cambridge Analytica, UK in 2014 and the right to use illegally harvested data was given to Cambridge Analytica for commercial purposes,” added the CBI FIR.
As of now, CBI has booked both the UK based firms for criminal conspiracy and violating IT Acts.