NEW DELHI: Facebook has responded to Indian government's latest notice on alleged data breach issue, outlining in detail the "changes made" to protect user information, but the reply of Cambridge Analytica is awaited, officials said. A final view on the matter will be taken once the reply of Cambridge Analytica too comes in, and both the responses are examined in detail, an IT ministry official said. "Cambridge Analytica has not responded so far. We are at a stage where we are awaiting further information from them ... they had recently communicated that they will reply. We can't look at the issue in isolation. We will have to look at the big picture based on what both of them have stated, and then come to a view," said the official who did not wish to be identified. The official said it is obvious that a lot of "correction" has been initiated by Facebook in its methods and procedures in the wake of concerns raised over the data leak issue. Meanwhile, a spokesperson of the social media giant said Facebook is grateful to the Indian government for giving it an opportunity to address concerns. "We are committed to protecting people's information and safeguarding the integrity of elections in India," a Facebook spokesperson said in an e-mail. Without divulging details of the reply sent to the government's latest notice, the spokesperson added: "We hope we have helped to answer important questions about the changes we have made to further protect users information as well as elections from abuse and exploitation including removing fake accounts, increasing ads transparency and reducing the spread of false news." The government had, in end-March, shot off a notice to Facebook asking whether the personal data of Indian voters and users has been compromised by the UK-based Cambridge Analytica or any other downstream entity. A similar notice was dispatched to Cambridge Analytica following media reports that it had misused data to profile users and influence elections. The government thereafter served second set of notices to both Cambridge Analytica and Facebook over the data breach issue late last month after finding discrepancies between the responses given by the two companies. The two were then asked to reply to the additional set of queries by May 10, to which Facebook has responded last night. Facebook has been facing intense scrutiny from its users as well as governments across the globe after a data leak scandal hit about 87 million users. While the US company has, in the past, admitted that nearly 5.62 lakh people in India were "potentially affected" by the data breach incident, Cambridge Analytica had claimed that it does not have any Facebook data on Indian citizens. British data analytics and political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica has been accused of harvesting personal information of millions of Facebook users illegally to help political campaigns and influence polls in several countries.
Earlier this month, however, Cambridge Analytica announced its closure in a statement on its website and claimed it had been "vilified" for activities that are legal and considered a standard component of online advertising.
Indian officials familiar with the line of questioning and notices sent in the data leak matter have previously said that the shutting down of Cambridge will not impact its ongoing probe as the liability of the company existed prior to the closure announcement. "Following news reports of the company closing, the ministry had sent them a mail reminding them about the notice and were told that a response will be given on the matter. So we are waiting for the reply," the government official said but did not specify on a fresh deadline. Facebook's reply, on the other hand, is extremely detailed, the official said adding that the company appears to have undertaken "corrective action" and is proactively taking steps to prevent misuse of data. These measures include creating user awareness on keeping data safe, allowing only authorised entities or advertisers to place political ads (which starts with the US) and blocking millions of fake accounts, the IT ministry official said.