The government today wrote to social networking giant Facebook, seeking its response over the user data breach and details of the measures it has put in place to ensure safety and prevent misuse of personal data.
Meanwhile, Facebook said that it is taking additional steps which will be rolled out in coming weeks to put people more in control of their privacy.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) today said that a notice seeking details relating to breach of data from Facebook had been sent to Cambridge Analytica particularly with regard to reports in the media about questionable practices attributed to the UK-based firm in their efforts to influence elections.
“It is felt that there is a need for further information about the data breach from Facebook. Accordingly, a letter has been issued by the Ministry of Electronics & IT on March 28, 2018 to Facebook seeking their response,” Meity said in a statement.
When contacted, Facebook spokesperson said, We are strongly committed to protecting people’s information. As Mark Zuckerberg has said, we are working hard to tackle past abuse and prevent future abuse. We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology has raised, as we continue our review of the situation.”
The move came after a global outrage over breach of user data on social networking platform Facebook. Data mining firm Cambridge Analytica has been accused of harvesting personal information of over 50 million Facebook users illegally to influence polls in several countries.
Facebook’s data breach scandal also sparked a furore in India with IT Minster Ravi Shankar Prasad warning the firm of “stringent” action for any attempt to influence polls through data theft and threatening to summon Zuckerberg, if needed.
The government has also issued notice to Cambridge Analytica, seeking its immediate response on whether it was involved in misuse of data to profile Indians and influence their voting behaviour. Facebook has already issued an apology with Zuckerberg assuring stringent steps to secure user data.
The ministry has raised five questions in all including whether the personal data of Indian voters and users has been compromised by Cambridge Analytica or any other downstream entity in any manner.
The ministry has asked social media major to submit a reply whether the company or its related or downstream agencies utilising Facebook’s data have previously been engaged by any entities “to manipulate the Indian electoral process”.
The letter sent to Facebook said that at present, it has largest footprint in India in terms of its user base and sought its reply on proactive measures being taken by the company to ensure safety, security and privacy of such large user data and to prevent its misuse by any third party.
“Facebook has been called upon to give their response by April 7, 2018,” the statement said.
A blog post by Erin Egan, VP and Chief Privacy Officer, Policy and Ashlie Beringer, VP and Deputy General Counsel at Facebook said, “…we’re taking additional steps in the coming weeks to put people more in control of their privacy. Most of these updates have been in the works for some time, but the events of the past several days underscore their importance.”
“We’ll also update our data policy to better spell out what data we collect and how we use it. These updates are about transparency – not about gaining new rights to collect, use, or share data,” the blog post said.
The proposed changes include even control of advertisements that a Facebook user would like to watch, review posts shared or reacted to searches made on the social media platform.