The CBI has booked UK-based Cambridge Analytica and Global Science Research Ltd for illegally harvesting data of Facebook users in India for commercial purposes, officials said on Friday.
The action came after a preliminary enquiry into the matter which showed that Global Science Research had created an app "thisisyourdigitallife" which was authorised by Facebook to collect specific datasets of its users for research and academic purposes in 2014, they said.
The company then entered into a criminal conspiracy with Cambridge Analytica, allowing it to use the data harvested by it for commercial purposes, the officials said. As per reports, Facebook only informed that 335 users installed the app, but that data of nearly 5.6 lakh more users was harvested illegally through the network of the first 335.
The data collected included demographic information about the users, contents of private chats and the pages they liked, among others.
Facebook had collected certificates from both the firms in 2016-17 that data collected by them using "thisisyourdigitallife" was accounted for and destroyed. However, the CBI enquiry did not find any evidence of any such destruction, according to the officials.
"The enquiry prima facie established that Global Science Research Ltd, UK dishonestly and fraudulently accessed data of app users of "thisisyourdigitallife" and their Facebook friends," an official said, citing the FIR.
In March 2018, reports came out that Cambridge Analytica collected private information from over 50 million Facebook profiles without the permission of the users. Post this, Facebook said that data of around 87 million users, most of which were from the United States might have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.
Following this scandal, the IT ministry had written to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica seeking clarification.
Preliminary enquiry by CBI began in September 2018 over the allegations against Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, which found that GSRL Founder and Director Dr Alexander Kogan had created the app.