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Facebook Data Breach: If Germany and Brazil Can, What Stops India From Summoning Social Media Giant?

If the Facebook data breach has triggered Germany to summon Facebook, what’s stopping India, the largest Facebook user base, from doing the same?

Debashis Sarkar |

Updated:March 22, 2018, 3:23 PM IST
Facebook Data Breach: If Germany and Brazil Can, What Stops India From Summoning Social Media Giant?
The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data breach was quick to take a political turn in India with both BJP and Congress blaming each other. (Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic)
The German justice minister Katarina Barley has reportedly summoned Facebook to clarify “whether the personal data of 30 million Facebook users in Germany were protected from unlawful use by third parties.”
Meanwhile, Brazilian prosecutors have said that they had opened an investigation into whether London-based political consultancy Cambridge Analytica acted illegally in Brazil.

Now, if you think Germany’s concern for the personal data of its 30 million users makes sense then what is stopping the Indian government? This is because, as per the latest statistics, India tops the list of Facebook users with a massive user base of 250 million.

Also read: Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Scam: Here's How it Helped Elect Donald Trump as US President

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The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data breach was quick to take a political turn in India with both BJP and Congress blaming each other for their alleged association with the controversial big data firm. While Law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked Congress to explain its connection with Cambridge Analytica, there is no concrete step from the government to ask Facebook about the fate of personal data of 250 million Indian Facebook users.

Also read: Brazil Prosecutors Open Investigation Into Cambridge Analytica

Having said that the minister has “warned” Facebook and said, “Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, you better note the observation of the IT Minister of India. If any data theft of Indians is done through collusion of Facebook’s system, it shall not be tolerated. We have got stringent powers in the IT Act, we shall use them, including summoning you to India.”

Also read: Facebook Data Breach: Mark Zuckerberg Admits Mistake

Cambridge Analytica beginning in 2014 obtained data on 50 million Facebook users via means that deceived both the users and Facebook. The data was harvested by an application developed by a British academic, Aleksandr Kogan, according to Reuters.

“Some 270,000 people downloaded the application and logged in with their Facebook credentials,” said Facebook. The application gathered their data and data about their friends, and then Kogan passed the data to Cambridge Analytica, according to both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.

Also read: Delete Facebook: WhatsApp Co-founder Brian Acton After Cambridge Analytica Data Scam

Can India legally summon Facebook? Of course.

“The Information Technology Act, 2000 has extraterritorial applications as well. This basically means that the law can extend to offences committed outside India as along as the offences committed have been done by IT systems, network or data in India, including data of Indian users. This enables the court to summon to someone or a firm who have breached the data of Indian users,” explained Namita Viswanath, Principal Associate, IndusLaw.

Why is Germany summoning Facebook?

According to the Reuters, Facebook's management in Europe must explain to the German government how data of millions of American Facebook users reached Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy hired by U.S. President Donald Trump for his 2016 election campaign.

Also read: Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Scam Could Push Google, Twitter And Others to Tighten Data Sharing

"The question of what happens with the data of 30 million German users is a central issue of consumer protection," the German justice minister Katarina Barley said. “…it was unacceptable that social media users are spied on in order to be targeted with election ads or bombarded with hate messages against political rivals,” she added.

What Brazil plans to do?

Prosecutors for Brazil's Federal District, which includes Brasilia, the capital, said in a written statement that they will look into whether the firm, through its partnership with Sao Paulo-based consulting group A Ponte Estratégia Planejamento e Pesquisa LTDA, illegally used the data of millions of Brazilians to create psychographic profiles.

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| Edited by: Debashis Sarkar
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