India warns Facebook of strong action over data breach

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New Delhi: India on Wednesday warned social media platforms like Facebook of “strong action” if any attempt was made by them 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 Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government fully supported the freedom of press, speech and expression and is for exchange of ideas on social media.

But any attempt by social media sites, including Facebook, to influence India’s electoral process through undesirable means would not be tolerated, he told reporters in Parliament House complex.

“In a warning to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the Union Minister said that any covert or overt attempt to misuse social media including, Facebook to influence India’s electoral process through undesirable means will neither be tolerated, nor be permitted.

“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,” he said.

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.

Reports had alleged that Cambridge Analytica used data mined from Facebook in the voter research it conducted for President Donald Trump during the 2016 elections campaign.

Prasad alleged that the Congress had links with Cambridge Analytica.

“My question to the Congress is whether to win elections, the 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 the 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.

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