“Open Up Cambridge Analytica, It’s CBI At the Door!”

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Among all the establishments ensnared in deplorable acts, Cambridge Analytica has steadily climbed the ladder of infamy. The roots of its malice certainly sprawl far wide. For after being booked in the United States, Cambridge Analytica is now on the rap sheet in the desi land.

Based on incoming reports, the premier investigative agency of India, i.e., the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has registered a case against the notorious UK-based political consulting company Cambridge Analytica. Having an encore of the rightful accusations it has been on the receiving end of in recent years, the investigative agency has alleged that the firm has indulged in “illegal harvesting of the personal data of 5.62 lakh Facebook users in India“.

Another player, named Global Science Research (GSRL), which is based out of the country, has been accused in the same case. Initial reports suggest that the two firms were in an alliance where Cambridge Analytica received data from Global Science Research, and then employed “illegal means” for harvesting the private data of Indians using Facebook’s platform.

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Even though the matter has now broken through, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook have been on the CBI’s radar since September 2018.

The crux of the allegations here lie in the “thisisyourdigitallife” app, which the preliminary inquiries found were created by none other than the GSRL founder and director Dr. Alexander Kogan.

Using the app, sensitive data, including demographic information, liked pages, and even contents of users’ private chats were collected without the knowledge and consent of the users which had installed them in India.

According to CBI, even though only 335 users in India seem to have installed the application, the social media giant has estimated that the compromised data stretches to approximately 5.62 lakh additional users worldwide. This due to the friends’ network of the initial 335 users, which spiralled into more and more numbers getting harvested illegally by the app.

How the app toyed with the delicate regulations surrounding authorization of user data is evidenced by Facebook’s estimates. Going by the company’s policy, the app was only authorized to collect specific user data for academic and research purposes. Which, the probe agency has now found that it overreached, having also collected additional unauthorized data of users illegally.

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The matter is expected to be thoroughly examined by the Indian IT Ministry too. After the preliminary inquiry of the CBI in 2018, the Ministry had immediately asked both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica for clarification on the issue of the data breach.

While its name being associated is a first in India, the track record of the firm is sure to set off major alarm bells in the country.

This is not the first time that Facebook users have served as prey for the vicious UK based political consulting firm. Given that Facebook has more than 20 crore users in India, it is sure to have a ripple effect of some kind once the news spreads around the country.

Getting adverse spotlight here in India could open up a new wound of sorts for the social media behemoth, a land where it enjoys a massive user base. Add to it the partnership with Reliance, the association with Cambridge Analytica once again has brought scrutiny at the company’s gates.

The latest denouncement from the CBI joins a long line of scandals which the tainted firm has been found to have involvements in.

From India’s perspective, seeing the history of charges against Cambridge Analytica, it should definitely adopt a once bitten, twice shy approach to resolve the issue.

It remains to be seen how far the trail of the firm’s wrongdoings run and what emerges from it – from the US election manipulations to involvement in ‘Brexit’ to the present situation with the Indian chapter for the firm.

Until then, stay tuned here for more updates.

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