The nameplate of political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, is seen in central London, Britain. (Reuters File Photo)
The nameplate of political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, is seen in central London, Britain. (Reuters File Photo)

CBI files case against Cambridge Analytica, Global Science: Key points

CBI filed has a case against Cambridge Analytica and UK's Global Science Research Ltd for harvesting data of Facebook users in India.
By HT Correspondent | Edited by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 22, 2021 01:55 PM IST

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered a case against British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica and UK's Global Science Research Ltd for "illegal harvesting of personal data from Facebook users in India", officials have said. CBI had initiated a preliminary inquiry against Cambridge Analytica and Global Science Research in 2018 for alleged illegal personal data harvesting of Indians from Facebook.

The Mark Zuckerberg-owned Facebook had said that the data of about 87 million people – mostly in the US – might have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. The IT ministry had shot off letters to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica in 2018 seeking clarification on the issue from them after the data breach came to light.

Also read | Ex-CEO of Cambridge Analytica banned from running cos for seven years

The ministry’s move had come after Christopher Wylie, who blew the lid off the scam involving mining of Facebook user data to manipulate elections, tweeted details that claim to expose the British consultancy’s work in India dating back to 2003.

Dr Alexandr Kogan, founder and director of Global Science Research, has been named as accused in CBI's First Information Report (FIR) registered on January 19 and has been charged under sections of criminal conspiracy and information technology act.

Here's what CBI has said:

1. The agency has said it has found that personal data of 335 users and around 562,000 additional users who were part of the friend’s network of these 355 users was unauthorisedly harvested by the app. Facebook has said that the 335 users had installed the app in India.

2. Kogan had created an app - “thisisyourdigitallife”, CBI inquiry has shown. The app was authorised to collect certain specific data of the users for academic and research purposes, according to Facebook's platform policy.

3. CBI has said the app, however, illegally collected additional unauthorised data of the users as well as their friends’ network in the Facebook.

4. The collected data includes demographic information, pages liked on FB, and contents of private messages etc, CBI has said.

5. Facebook had conveyed that 335 users had installed the app in India. They have estimated that data of 562,000 additional users, who were part of friends’ network of these 335 users, has also been unauthorisedly harvested by the app, CBI has said.

6. Union law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had told Rajya Sabha in 2018 that the probe will be handed over to the CBI. The anti-corruption agency had launched a preliminary inquiry against CA in July 2018 on the complaint of the ministry of information technology.

7. During its inquiry, CBI had contacted 335 app users out of which six responded to the agency and were examined during the course of the inquiry. “They unanimously stated that they were misled by the app and were not aware of the fact that their personal and friends’ data was harvested. They also said that they would not have used the app if they knew that it would do so,” CBI FIR, reviewed by HT, adds.

8. CBI has said that Global Science Research entered into a criminal conspiracy with CA during 2014 and right to use illegally harvested data sets was given to the latter for commercial purposes.

9. “Facebook had collected written certificates from Alexandr Kogan (Global Science Research) and CA during 2016-17 declaring that all such data obtained by them through the app, thisisyourdigitallife, was accounted for and destroyed. This fact confirms that Global Science harvested data sets and provided the same to CA for commercial purposes,” CBI FIR states.

10. CBI has said its inquiry could not authenticate the veracity of the claim by Global Science and CA that they had destroyed the data sets.

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