New Delhi: India on Wednesday warned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg against "any data theft" and said that India will not stop short of taking stringent actions, even if it "includes summoning you".
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday, "Mr. Mark Zuckerberg you better know the observation of IT Minister of India, if any data theft of Indians is done with the collusion of FB systems, it will not be tolerated. We have got stringent powers in the IT Act including summoning you in India."
Prasad further warned them of trying to influence the country's electoral process through undesirable means.
Amid probe by US privacy watchdog over a potential breach of user confidentiality by Facebook, IT and Law Minister Prasad said the government fully supports freedom of press, speech and expression and is for exchange of ideas on social media.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an independent government body charged with ensuring that companies abide by their own privacy policies, is looking at whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree after media reports alleged that it had handed the data of millions of users to a political consultancy.
Stating that 20 crore Indians were using Facebook, making it the company's largest market outside of the US, Prasad cautioned the social media giant and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg of repercussions under IT Act in case of any data breach came to light.
Asked if the government would initiate a probe on data use by Facebook, Prasad said that India had a regulator in the form of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), and in case of any specific complaints, the same would be taken under a structured investigation.
"We have got very robust mechanism available, we will look into it. But today, this very stern observation I gave that let my warning be heard across the Atlantic far away in California," he said.
Reports had alleged that Cambridge Analytica used data mined from Facebook in the voter research it conducted for President Donald Trump during the 2016 US elections campaign.
Prasad alleged that Congress party had links with Cambridge Analytica. "My question to Congress party is whether to win elections, Congress will depend on data manipulation and theft of data," he said. "What is the role of Cambridge Analytica in social media profile of Rahul Gandhi," he asked.
He alleged that Cambridge Analytica, the agency roped in by Congress to run their 2019 campaign and termed as their 'Brahmastra' in certain section of media, is accused of using bribes, sex workers to entrap politicians and stealing data from Facebook.
Incidentally, this is not the first standoff between the Indian policymakers and Facebook. TRAI, in 2016, has issued regulations on discriminatory pricing over internet access that had led to ban of platforms like Facebook's Free Basics.
(With PTI inputs)