After nearly 18 months of preliminary inquiry, the CBI has booked the UK-based Cambridge Analytica and Global Science Research for alleged illegal harvesting of data of 5.62 lakh Indian Facebook users for profiteering and manipulating elections, officials said Friday.
The agency registered case against Cambridge Analytica and Global Science Research represented by Aleksandr Kogan, both based in the UK, under Indian Penal Code section related to criminal conspiracy and Information Technology Act violations related to receiving stolen computer resource and negligence in handling personal data collected by them, they said.
Based on news reports of illegal data harvesting to manipulate elections, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had sent a complaint to the CBI on July 25, 2018 based on which the agency had registered a preliminary probe into the matter, they said.
It is alleged Kogan of GSR had created an application "Thisisyourdigitallife" having permission from Facebook to collect certain categories of its users' data for "research and academic purposes". It illegally collected additional data of not only the 335 users of the application but also of their friends' network on Facebook, the social media giant without their consent or knowledge, the FIR alleged. The data was allegedly sold for commerical gains to Cambridge Analytica which used it for profiling users and influencing elections in India.
Although the application had 335 users in India, it was able to harvest data of 5.62 lakh FB members who were in their friends' network, FB had told the MeitY in its response.