Indian Govt Questions Facebook in Data Breach Case

Ravi Shankar Prasad - Technology and law minister of India. (file photo)
Ravi Shankar Prasad – Technology and law minister of India. (file photo)

Amid reports of Facebook’s shady activities of sharing users’ data with rogue data companies, top lifestyle and entertainment content platform Playboy has decided to stay away from the social networking site.

By Rakesh Raman

As the Indian government believes that Facebook data of Indian users has been improperly used for influencing the elections in the country, the government today asked the social networking company to respond to a slew of questions.

Recently, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, apologized for the mistakes his company had made in handling data belonging to its users, and has promised tougher steps to restrict access to such information.

It is reported that a British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica was secretly manipulating Facebook data of nearly 50 million users and selling it mainly to politicians to help them win elections.

Reports suggest that the firm’s data was used by U.S. President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race. Similarly, the Brexit campaign also used the stolen data.

Of late, India’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has blamed opposition party Congress for committing fraud in elections in connivance with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.

Last week, a notice seeking details relating to breach of data from Facebook had been sent to Cambridge Analytica particularly with regard to reports about questionable practices attributed to Cambridge Analytica in their efforts to influence elections.

Amid reports of Facebook’s shady activities of sharing users’ data with rogue data companies, top lifestyle and entertainment content platform Playboy has decided to stay away from the social networking site.

[ Read: Playboy Stops Its Content Operations on Facebook ]

Today, a letter was sent by the Ministry of Electronics & I.T. to Facebook seeking the company’s response to the following questions:

  • Whether the personal data of Indian voters and users has been compromised by Cambridge Analytica or any other downstream entity in any manner, and if so, how was it compromised?
  • Whether Facebook or its related or downstream agencies utilizing Facebook’s data have previously been engaged by any entities to manipulate the Indian electoral process?
  • If any such downstream entity misused data from Facebook, what is the protection available to the data subject?
  • What are the specific steps proposed to be taken by Facebook to prevent any misuse of personal data for potential interference in, or manipulation of the Indian electoral process?
  • Facebook today has its largest footprint in India in terms of its user base and therefore what proactive measures are being taken to ensure the safety, security and privacy of such large user data and to prevent its misuse by any third party?

Facebook has been asked to give its response by April 7, 2018.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a government’s National award-winning journalist. He had been associated with the United Nations (UN) through United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as a digital media expert to help businesses use technology for brand marketing and business development. He also runs a free school for deserving children under his NGO – RMN Foundation.

RMN News

Rakesh Raman