Hyderabad: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a case against UK-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica and the representatives of Global Science Research (GSRL) Alexander Nix and Aleksandr Kogan for their involvement in the illegal harvesting of data through Facebook in 2018.

It is alleged that both firms illegally harvested personal data of 5.62 lakh Indian Facebook users.

As part of the data leak controversy, Kogan developed an app called 'This is Your Digital Life' that allowed Cambridge Analytica to collect the personal details of 80 million Facebook users around the world. This data included demographic information, page likes on Facebook, and contents of private messages and was possibly used for profiling and influencing elections in India.

It was estimated that the data of 5.62 lakh Indian Facebook users was harvested through the app.

In March 2018, multiple international media platforms cited former Cambridge Analytica employees, associates, and documents to report that the firm had harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of over 50 million users the world over without their permission.

The Union minister of electronics and information technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, had informed the Parliament in July 2018 that there will be a CBI probe into the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data theft case.

In July 2018, the group coordinator (cyber law and security) of the Union ministry of electronics and information technology, Rakesh Maheshwari, requested the CBI to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the matter. This, after additional solicitor general Vikramjit Banerjee gave a legal opinion that Cambridge Analytica has violated Section 43(a) (illegally accessing computer, computer system or computer network) read with Sections 66 (computer related offences) and 66B (punishment for dishonestly receiving stolen computer resource) of the Information Technology Act and Section 171C (undue influence at elections) of the Indian Penal Code.

In its preliminary inquiry, the CBI found that Facebook had collected written certificates from Kogan and Cambridge Analytica declaring that the data obtained through the app was accounted for and destroyed. A letter sent by the additional superintendent of police, CBI, states, "This fact confirms that M/S Global Science Research Limited, UK, illegally harvested datasets and provided the same to M/S Cambridge Analytica (UK) Limited for commercial purposes. However, inquiry could not authenticate the veracity of the claims of M/S Global Science Research Limited, UK and M/S Cambridge Analytica (UK) Limited that they had destroyed the said datasets."

The CBI concluded that Kogan's company illegally harvested user data through the app and gave the right to use these datasets to Cambridge Analytica.

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