01:15 GMT08 March 2021
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    In 2018, Facebook was scandalised by a massive data breach. A UK-based political data analysis firm called Cambridge Analytica had improperly obtained the personal data of over 87 million Facebook users. At the time, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed the breach that had jolted users into shock and anger.

    India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday filed a case against Cambridge Analytica and another UK-based research firm – Global Science Research Limited (GSRL) for allegedly mining personal data of 562,000 Indian Facebook users by illegal means, even without the consent of the social networking giant. 

    ​In its first information report, the CBI has alleged that Global Science Research actually procured user data from Facebook and later handed it over to Cambridge Analytica unethically. 

    Facebook has admitted before the CBI that it had allowed GSRL to collect data for academic and research purposes. GSRL however, exploited the permission and collected illegal data including the contents of private messages of thousands of Indian users.

    GSRL later shared the data with Cambridge Analytica and used it to influence polls, the CBI has alleged.

    ​A preliminary investigation into this massive data breach scandal was opened by CBI against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica back in September 2018.

    The initial enquiry revealed that GSRL Founder Dr. Alexander Kogan had created an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” that was collecting user information. 

    At the time, Facebook had informed Indian authorities that 335 Indians had installed the notorious app created by Kogan which led to the data harvest as well as the details of their friends who were part of their social networking circle, bringing the number to 562,000 users in total.

    The news comes at a time when Facebook-owned instant messaging app WhatsApp is mired in a controversy over its latest privacy policy update.

    WhatsApp’s update asked users utilising its dedicated “Business” app launched in 2018 to accept conditions of data sharing with Facebook to make their business and shopping experience more personalised. 

    After facing criticism from its users from around the world coupled with legal enquiry notices from several countries, including India, WhatsApp has tentatively pushed back the enforcement of its privacy policy by three months.

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