US technology company and social media giant Facebook has revealed that data of about 5.62 lakh people in India was improperly shared with UK-based data mining firm Cambridge Analytica.
In its response to the Indian government’s notice on the data leak scandal, Facebook said that about 5.62 lakh people in India were “potentially affected”.
The Indian government had shot-off notices to both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica on the data breach issue after it came to light that the UK firm had conducted multiple surveys in India targeting poll campaigns.
Cambridge Analytica has been accused of harvesting personal information of over millions of Facebook users illegally to influence polls in several countries. Facebook has over 20 crore users in India.
A Facebook spokesperson said that while 335 people in India were directly affected through an app installation, another 562,120 people were potentially affected as friends of those users.
“Cambridge Analytica’s acquisition of Facebook data through the app developed by Dr Aleksandr Kogan and his company Global Science Research Limited (GSR) happened without our authorisation and was an explicit violation of our Platform policies,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
“At no time did Facebook agree to Cambridge Analytica’s use of any Facebook user data that may have been collected by this app, including with respect to users located in India..This yields a total of 562,455 potentially affected people in India, which is 0.6 per cent of the global number of potentially affected people” he added.
The app – mydigitallife – was installed by 335 people in India, which is estimated to be 0.1 per cent of the app’s total worldwide installs.
The company said it is “investigating” the specific number of people whose information was accessed, including those in India.
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had warned Facebook and Cambridge Analytica of “stringent” action for any attempt to influence polls through data theft. He had also threatened to summon Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, if needed.
According to sources, the government will wait for a response from Cambridge Analytica before deciding on the action to be taken in the matter.
The past few days have seen a global outrage over the breach of user data on Facebook, forcing the company to issue a public apology.
On Wednesday, Facebook admitted that data on about 87 million people – mostly in the US – may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. Earlier, it was estimated that data of 50 million Facebook users had been breached in the US.
Addressing the press, Zuckerberg again accepted blame for the data leak, which had angered users, advertisers and lawmakers.
“This a huge mistake. It’s my mistake,” Zuckerberg said, taking the blame for the massive data breach.
“Yes. People make mistakes and learn along the way. I’m the first to admit we didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibilities are…What people should hold us accountable for is learning from the mistakes,” he added.
Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before a Congressional committee on data breach next week on April 11.
(With inputs from agencies)