IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad says attempts to misuse social media including Facebook to influence India's national election in 2019 "through undesirable means" will not be tolerated.
India's information technology minister on Wednesday warned against any abuse of social media in elections, following reports that a British consultancy improperly accessed information on millions of Facebook users to target US voters.
India is due to hold a national election in 2019 and there are several states electing new assemblies this year and the next.
"Abuse of social media including Facebook cannot be allowed to impact the fairness of elections," Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters.
"In the wake of recent data theft from Facebook, let my stern warning be heard across the Atlantic, far away in California. 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."
There are accusations that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition Congress used the services of Cambridge Analytica's Indian arm SCL group in the previous elections.
Both parties have denied any links with the company, BBC reported.
BJP, however, accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of relaunching himself for 2019 election using Cambridge Analytica's help, which it said is "alarming and dangerous."
Here are screenshots of LinkedIn page of Director of Cambridge Analytica's Indian arm, saying "managed 4 elections successfully for BJP", "helped achieve mission 272." @BJP4India: response please? pic.twitter.com/NaxNJJdzzb— Sreenivasan Jain (@SreenivasanJain) March 21, 2018
Facebook CEO reminded of IT laws
An India-based spokeswoman for California-headquartered Facebook did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Cambridge Analytica has denied media accusations and said it deleted the data after learning the information did not adhere to data protection rules.
Facebook has said it has tightened its controls on such practices since it discovered the alleged abuses by Cambridge Analytica in 2015, but the issue has continued to rock the companies involved as well as some political parties across the world.
"(Mark) Zuckerberg, you better note the observation of the IT minister of India. We welcome the Facebook profile in India, (it is one of the) highest in the world but if any data theft of Indians is done to collusion of Facebook system, this shall not be tolerated," Prasad said.
"We have got stringent power under IT Act, we shall use it, including summoning you in India."
Neha Poonia from New Delhi tells TRT World what prompted India's warning.
Cambridge Analytica official suspended
Cambridge Analytica suspend its CEO Alexander Nix after recordings emerged in which he boasts his data company played an expansive role in Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, doing all of its research, analytics as well as digital and television campaigns.
In undercover filming captured by Britain's Channel 4 News, he is also seen boasting about entrapping politicians and secretly operating in elections around the world through shadowy front companies.