By Elton Gomes
In a response to a letter by the Indian IT Minister, Facebook revealed on Wednesday that the data of more than five lakh Indian users may have been improperly shared due to a data breach.
Cambridge Analytica is currently under investigation in the US and UK for illegally harvesting millions of Facebook profiles, and for its role in the 2016 US presidential elections and the Brexit referendum. Figures revealed by Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer, show that the information of over 87 million people was shared with the British data analysis firm.
Cambridge Analytical founder and whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, revealed during this testimony before the UK parliament in March that the firm had worked in India. Shortly afterwards, Wylie tweeted a list of past projects the Cambridge Analytica and its parent company-SCL Group- have undertaken in India, dating back to 2003.
After the revelation, the minister of electronics and information technology had issued an inquiry to Facebook, asking whether personal data of Indian citizens had been used by Cambridge Analytica or any such entity. The government has asked for a response by April 7.
What Facebook said in its investigation
The application developed by Cambridge University Professor Aleksandr Kogan ‘thisisyourdigitallife’, which was used to conduct the data breach was only installed by 335 people in India. However, according to Facebook officials, an additional 562,120 additional people in India were also affected by it, due to friends who downloaded the app, totalling to 562,455 potential victims of the breach. That figure, in turn, translates to 0.6% of the total number of people affected globally.
Who else is affected
Apart from Indian users, the data breach has also impacted users from the Philippines, Indonesia, UK, Mexico and Canada were also affected. The US seems to have been hit the hardest by the scandal with about 70,632,350 users affected.
Upon the unfolding of the scandal in March, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had issued a stern warning to the social media giant, saying “any data theft of Indians…shall not be tolerated.” He had added, “We have got stringent powers in the IT Act, we shall use it, including summoning you to India.”