India takes down local website of Cambridge Analytica

India's move is is part of a growing push to investigate Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Cambridge Analytica's affiliates globally. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI • India has taken down the local website of Cambridge Analytica following allegations that the company used personal data of millions of Facebook members to influence the US presidential election.

The step is part of a growing push to investigate Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Cambridge Analytica's affiliates globally.

According to the BBC, SCL India - a venture between the SCL Group in London and Ovleno Business Intelligence - said both of India's major political parties are its clients. SCL India is not facing any charges. The company is a government and military contractor that is an affiliate of Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook would also face "tough action" if it was found to have misused Indian users' data, the IT minister warned.

Both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and main opposition Congress deny links with SCL India, but have accused each other of utilising the company's services, the BBC said.

In Brazil, prosecutors said they had opened an investigation into whether Cambridge Analytica acted illegally there.

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

Calls by Reuters to CA Ponte, as the partnership is called, were not answered.

Bloomberg reported that Ponte Estrategia has asked to suspend its agreement with Cambridge Analytica less than seven months before the South American nation goes to the polls.

Germany's Justice Minister Katarina Barley has asked Facebook to clarify whether the personal data of the social media site's 30 million users in the country were protected from unlawful use by third parties, said a report in the Funke group of German regional newspapers.

Ms Barley, in remarks published yesterday in the newspapers, said Facebook's management in Europe must explain to the German government how the data of millions of American Facebook users reached Cambridge Analytica.

"The question of what happens with the data of 30 million German users is a central issue of consumer protection," she said.

The Justice Ministry could not be reached for comment.

Ms Barley has summoned Facebook for talks at the ministry, but did not say when it would take place.

In the United States, a resident has sued Facebook and Cambridge Analytica for obtaining data from millions of users without permission.

The complaint filed at the US District Court in San Jose, California, marked the first of what may be many lawsuits seeking damages over Facebook's ability to protect user data, and exploitation of the information.

The proposed class-action complaint was filed late on Tuesday by Maryland resident Lauren Price.

"Every Facebook user has an interest in this lawsuit, and the enforcement of their privacy rights," Mr John Yanchunis, a lawyer for Ms Price, told Reuters on Wednesday. The complaint seeks unspecified damages.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2018, with the headline India takes down local website of Cambridge Analytica. Subscribe