Social networking giant Facebook today asserted that it is not aware of “any misuse” of user information including that of Indians, arising out of its agreements with device makers and that these partnerships were limited to creating Facebook-like experiences. Facebook’s clarifications assume significance as the US social media company had received a notice from India’s IT Ministry seeking an explanation on reports that Facebook had shared information of its users with mobile device makers. “We are not aware of any misuse of Facebook information including Indian users information,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed response. The spokesperson was responding to specific queries on whether the company has responded to the government’s notice.
“We appreciate the government of India for giving us an opportunity to respond to the New York Times article on our device-integrated APIs- software which we launched 10 years ago to help get Facebook onto mobile devices,” the spokesperson said. The company explained that the purpose of these partnerships “was not to share information but to help the partners develop Facebook-like experiences, particularly on devices and other products where people otherwise would not have had this access”.
Facebook further said the agreements with the partners prevented them from “using Facebook information for any other purpose than to create Facebook-like experiences”. Facebook is already facing severe backlash globally for improperly sharing personal data of up to 87 million people with UK-based Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica, a data-mining firm, is embroiled in a scandal purportedly over its work for US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and is alleged to have improperly obtained information from millions of Facebook users to develop political ads. India had, in March, issued notices to both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.
The social media giant had responded to that notice (over data breach) and outlined in detail the “changes made” to protect user information. Facebook had also admitted that in the Cambridge Analytica case, 335 people in India were directly affected through an app installation, and another 5,62,120 people were potentially affected as friends of those users.
In a recent interview to PTI, Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said while the government is supportive of the social media, it will not allow abuse of the platform nor “irresponsible traffic in data commerce”. India is already penning stronger data protection laws and a 10-member committee, formed last year under the chairmanship of Justice B N Srikrishna (former Supreme Court judge) to give shape to the new data protection framework, is widely expected to finalise it views soon.