The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has written to British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, Global Science Research (GSR) and Facebook in relation to the illegal personal data harvesting of Indians from the social media platform.

CBI has asked for information pertaining to the scandal to determine whether the personal data of Indians was illegally retrieved from their social networking accounts.

As per the sources, CBI has approached Facebook’s office in the US, Cambridge Analytica’s New York office and the GSR office in the UK. The agency took this step on a reference from the IT Ministry. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had told the Parliament in July that they will be handing over the probe to CBI.

He was quoted saying that there were reports stating how user data was “illegally accessed by hardware manufacturers who had tie-ups with Facebook.” He had added that Facebook had responded saying they were not aware of any misuse of the data, including that of Indian users.

The agency then went onto register a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) against Cambridge Analytica and Global Sciences Research about a month ago. PE is basically a fact-finding inquiry, an initial move to determine whether the allegations demand an investigation through an FIR. The inquiry will ascertain if the company had violated Indian laws.

It has been claimed that Cambridge Analytica acquired data from GSR which illegally extracted personal data of Indians via Facebook as the instrument. CBI had reportedly issued several notices against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica before the ongoing investigation but, it did not receive any responses.

Cambridge Analytica, founded by Robert Mercer, was accused of being the prime suspect in one of the biggest data breaches that involved data of 87 million users. This is said to have played a huge role in the US presidential elections in 2016 to help Donald Trump win. In May, the company closed down its UK operations and filed for bankruptcy. While Facebook modified its data collection policy and suspended about 200 apps that have misused the user data to enhance the privacy of users.

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