India continues investigation on Cambridge Analytica data leak issue

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The Indian government will continue having its enquiry into the Cambridge Analytica data leak issue, aside from the British firm announcing closure of business, senior IT Ministry officials said on Thursday.

The UK-based data analytics and political consulting firm has been under fire in a variety of countries for allegedly harvesting data from almost 87 million Facebook users and leveraging them for political campaigns. The Indian government too has shot-off notices to both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, confronting them with questions on data breach issue. The final date for the two companies to respond is May 10.

On Wednesday however, Cambridge Analytica announced its closure in a statement on its website and claimed it have been “vilified” for activities that are legal and considered a standard element of online advertising.

Indian officials knowledgeable about the questioning and notices submitted the info leak matter said the ongoing probe will continue as the liability of the company existed before the closure announcement. They, however, declined to divulge further details in the problem, saying that both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have time till May 10 to send written responses to official questioning.

In a new notice sent to Cambridge Analytica last month, the federal government asked what kind of data was collected in India and the study instruments used to fully capture such data. Additionally, it asked whether the company harvested any data through third-party apps and whether mining of such data was completed with user consent.

Quizzing the British firm on the non-disclosure pacts signed by the company having its associates and clients for Indian assignments, the federal government also asked it to share the templates that have been used in signing such agreements. The most recent notice by the federal government had also flagged the “cryptic and evasive” reply given by Cambridge Analytica to the initial notice.

On another hand, the notice to Facebook had taken note of the US social networking company’s candid admission of unauthorised utilization of its user data by Cambridge Analytica. Facebook was asked to list out the security architecture proposed to be created “in order that data concerning Indians are not pilfered or manipulated again for extraneous purposes including to influence the elections “.

While Facebook had previously admitted that nearly 5.62 lakh people in India were “potentially affected” by the info breach incident, Cambridge Analytica had claimed so it does have no Facebook data on Indian citizens. The British firm yesterday said it is shutting down and cited a sharp drop running a business behind its decision.

In its statement, Cambridge Analytica said, “Within the last almost a year, Cambridge Analytica has been the topic of numerous unfounded accusations and, regardless of the Company’s efforts to correct the record, has been vilified for activities that are not only legal but also widely accepted as a standard element of online advertising in both political and commercial arenas “.

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