The is the first time in the country that a criminal investigation has been launched against any company for illegal data theft.
CBI has also named another UK-based firm ‘Global Science Research’ (GSRL), in the same case.
In March 2018, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had filed a complaint with the CBI in regards with violation of right of privacy of social media users.
Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had informed Parliament in July 2018, that there would be a CBI probe into the matter.
The IT ministry had also sent letters to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica demanding clarification on the issue.
In response to the CBI’s queries, Facebook had informed that GSRL illegally collected personal data of around 5.62 lakh Indian users and shared it with Cambridge Analytica. It is alleged that the consulting firm then used the data to influence Indian elections.
The CBI probe revealed that Founder and Director of GSRL Dr Aleksandr Kogan had created an application ‘thisisyourdigitallife.’ The app was authorized to harvest specific user data for academic and research purpose according to Facebook’s policy. However, the app also collected additional unauthorized data of users.
The data, including demographic information, pages liked and private chats, were collected illegally without the consent of app users.
According to Facebook, 335 users in India had installed the application, and data of around 5.62 lakh additional users, who were part of their friends’ network was breached and illegally harvested.
The CBI has filed the case under Sections 120 (B) (Punishment for criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and 66B (Punishment for dishonesty receiving any stolen computer resource or communication device), 85 (Offences by companies) and 43 (a) (Compensation for failure to protect data) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.