Voter Data Theft Case: Modi Government Issues Notice to Facebook

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

Facebook says it constantly struggles to protect the social media site from Russian manipulation that is aimed to influence elections in the U.S. and elsewhere.

By Rakesh Raman

The Government of India headed by Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi has quoted recent media reports claiming that Facebook has agreements which are allowing phone and other device manufacturers’ access to its users’ personal information, including that of their friends without taking their explicit consent.

The Government of India is deeply concerned about reports of such lapses or violations, an official statement released Thursday said.

In response to earlier notices about breaches of personal data relating to the Cambridge Analytica episode, Facebook had apologized and given strong assurances to the Government of India that it would make sincere efforts to protect the privacy of users’ data on the platform.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly apologized for the mistakes his company makes in handling user data with the promise to take tougher steps to avoid data breach in future.

As Facebook has no control on its site for stopping data theft and misuse of its social media property, now it is randomly blocking even genuine users who are using Facebook properly. Even when users complain for such arbitrary restrictions, Facebook ignores the users’ complaints. As Facebook is slowly losing its relevance in the digital universe, its business will get adversely affected.

An example of Facebook's arbitrary restrictions on genuine users.
An example of Facebook’s arbitrary restrictions on genuine users.

Recently, Zuckerberg explained his company’s position to the U.S. Congress. He took personal responsibility for the leak of confidential data of about 87 millions users, and assured that his company will ensure that the upcoming elections in India and other countries are safe.

Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook constantly struggles to protect the social media site from Russian manipulation that is aimed to influence elections in the U.S. and elsewhere.

It is reported that the 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.

Earlier, India’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led by PM Modi had blamed opposition party Congress for committing fraud in elections in connivance with Cambridge Analytica. Congress dismissed the allegations.

According to an Indian government statement, there are other downstream players such as Cambridge Analytica and its alleged associates who have been reported to be involved in the data breach.

According to the government statement of Thursday, such reports raise uncomfortable questions about the assurances made by Facebook. Therefore, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology has sought an explanation from Facebook seeking a detailed factual report on the issue. Facebook has been asked to respond by 20th June, 2018.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

Photo courtesy: Press Information Bureau

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Rakesh Raman