CBI starts examining Cambridge Analytica data breach case

New Delhi: The CBI has started probing the role of British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica which is alleged to have illegally obtained data of Indians.

“We recently received a reference from government to register a data mining case against Cambridge Analytica. The matter is being examined,” said a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) official.

He said the matter is being examined under the Information Technology Act 2000 as it is alleged that personal data from voters and Facebook users were compromised by Cambridge Analytica.

“A formal case would be registered after the examination of documents and other things related to the matter,” the official said.

The CBI got the reference from Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology last month to probe the role of Cambride Analytica, said the official.

Union Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on July 26 had also informed the parliament that the government has ordered the CBI to probe and find out if the British company had violated Indian laws.

The Minister told the Rajya Sabha that the firm denied that data of Indians were breached, but this was in contradiction of the information received from Facebook.

As per the Minister, the Facebook had stated about the role of Cambridge Analytica in the data breach and promised to take various steps to ensure that such breach do not reoccur.

About Cambridge Analytica, the Minister had said: “Cambridge Analytica, on the other hand, gave an initial response that the data of the Indians were not breached but this was not in conformity with what was reported by Facebook. It also did not respond to the subsequent communication, therefore it is suspected that Cambridge Analyitca may have been involved in illegally obtaining data of Indians which could be misused.”

The BJP and Congress have accused each other of using Cambridge Analytica’s services, but both have denied any link to it.

Cambridge Analytica — a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer — declared bankruptcy this year following allegations that it used personal information harvested from 87 million Facebook accounts to help Donald Trump win the 2016 US presidential election.

The firm is accused of mining personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements.