The Central government has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the alleged misuse of data of Indian Facebook users by the now defunct British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica. Law and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Rajya Sabha today that the CBI had been assigned the probe to determine whether Cambridge Analytica had indeed violated the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It was earlier alleged that the firm had conducted data mining and analysis by harvesting personal information of more than 87 million Facebook accounts to help US President Donald Trump win the 2016 US presidential elections. Similarly in India, the Congress party had been accused of taking the help of the political analysis firm in order to win elections. Whistleblower Christopher Wylie had blamed the Congress for taking the help of Cambridge Analytica and had even added that the firm had large scale operations in the country. The CBI probe could therefore prove to be detrimental to the interests of the Congress party. “The Government has entrusted this issue to be investigated by the CBI for possible violation of Information Technology Act, 2000 and IPC,” Prasad said.
The Minister also told the Rajya Sabha that there had been a directive issued to social media platforms to stop rumours and fake news from doing the rounds on their platforms. The government has also asked the social media platforms like Facebook to provide them with technological solutions to filter fake news and provocative messages. Prasad also cleared the stance of social media giant Facebook on the issue when they were contacted by the concerned ministries. “Facebook responded that they will streamline their internal processes regarding handling of personal data. They stated that the case of Cambridge Analytica was a case of breach of trust. They promised to take various other steps to ensure that such breaches do not recur,” Prasad said. However he went on to add that Cambridge Analytica had given an initial response that the data of Indians were not breached but Facebook had blamed the firm for “breach of trust”. Cambridge Analytica, according to the Law and IT minister also failed to respond to further notices issued by the government.
It appears that the Congress’ misdeeds during the last one decade or so knew no bounds. During its tenure, it was almost always under the scanner for financial mismanagement and scams. However, now we are concerned with even more critical questions like national security and sovereignty of India. The IT Ministry has already shown the intent of taking action against the whole data leak fiasco and one must wait if more details eventually emerge about the Congress-Cambridge Analytica nexus. It is now almost clear that the Congress actually took the help of the Cambridge Analytica compromising India’s sovereignty and integrity but the extent of this co-operation will come out in the open if Cambridge Analytica is probed by Indian agencies. India’s democracy is not only cherished in India but is also respected as the world’s biggest democracy across the globe. However, it seems that the Congress faced with challenging proportions was (or maybe still is) on the way of trying to unlawfully influence the public’s verdict and dismantle the democratic set up of the country. The CBI probe will definitely clear that up and for good and while it is commendable that the central government has handed over the investigation to the CBI, it is also true that this should have been done much earlier. Towards the end of his speech Ravi Shankar Prasad also said that, “They (social networking platforms) have also to follow Article 19(2) of the Constitution and ensure that their platforms are not used to commit and provoke terrorism, extremism, violence and crime.”