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Over half a million Indian Facebook users affected in data breach

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A week after the Ministry of Information Technology shot off notices to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica on the data breach issue and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government could summon Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to India if needed, Facebook has submitted a detailed reply to the ministry. Facebook’s response includes specific information on how the Cambridge Analytica case affected Indian users.

Half a million Indian users may be affected.

Facebook says “Cambridge Analytica’s acquisition of Facebook data through the app developed by Dr. Aleksandr Kogan and his company Global Science Research Limited (“GSR”) happened without our authorization and was an explicit violation of our Platform policies.” It ran an investigation “with respect to Indian user data” for the app “this is your digital life” which is at the center of the case. Based on this investigation, Facebook says:
· A total of 335 people in India installed the App, which is 0.1% of the App’s total worldwide installs. Facebook says the information available to it is limited to people who installed the App throughout its lifetime on the Facebook Platform (i.e. 2013 to no later than 17 December 2015).

Facebook reports that 562,120 additional people in India were potentially affected, as friends of people who installed the App. This yields a total of 562,455 potentially affected people in India, which is 0.6% of the global number of potentially affected people.
This is Facebook’s first official confirmation of the possible scope of the data leak in India. To put this in perspective, Facebook currently has over 250 million users in India. By this count, about 0.22% of Indian users were potentially affected.

Facebook’s India numbers come a day after it revealed that personal information of as many as 87 million people, most of them in the US, may have been improperly accessed by Cambridge Analytics. About 270,000 people worldwide downloaded a personality quiz app and shared information about themselves and their friends with a researcher, who then passed along the information to Cambridge Analytica, in a move that Facebook says was against its rules.

 In damage control mode to contain the fallout of the crisis, Facebook has announced several changes to the way it operates its platforms. Mark Zuckerberg faced the press on April 4 responding to many of the questions being raised by the crisis. (see full transcript here) Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer on April 4 published an update to Facebook’s plans to restrict data access to the company with more transparency on how it collects and uses people’s data. (read here)

This follows earlier plans announced on March 28 to make its privacy tools easier to find (click here) and a crackdown on its platform being abused by third parties (read here).

 India has the highest number of Facebook users in the world (250 million), with the United States (230 million users) coming in second.
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