The dubious distinction of world’s largest data mining company Cambridge Analytica is now under the scanner by some of the major nations of the world, India being no exception. The British data analysis firm is currently courting controversy for unethical data breach to manipulate the elections campaigns of various nations across the globe, right from the US Presidential elections in 2016, swinging the Brexit campaign and even influence elections in Kenya and India.
There are plenty of speculations on how Cambridge Analytica actually collected data from Facebook and use them to score advertisements and conduct surveys to attract voters database. The British data mining firm has allegedly breached the personal data of 50 million Facebook users to aid the Presidential election campaign of Donald Trump in 2016.
Now India being host to 250 million active Facebook users has the largest database to be exploited for reasons galore besides targeting election campaigns.
In a recent press meeting Union Law and IT minister Ravishankar Prasad announced the confirmation by former Cambridge Analytics employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie on how data analytics firm illegally trespassed profiles of millions of Facebook accounts for political benefits.
The Cambridge Analytica data breach is the largest controversy of a social networking website with various political parties embroiled in the scandal.
In his testimony at the British parliament, Wylie presented all the documentation to support SCL’s role (Strategic Communications Laboratories), the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, in past projects in India. In his tweet Wylie touted SCL’s compared SCL’s action in India as “modern colonization”.
The promotional material released by Wylie details evidence of SCL’s role in Indian elections since 2003 with data statistics from 600 districts and 7 lakh villages.
Wylie claims that the Indian subsidiary of Cambridge Analytica, Ovleno Business Intelligence was incorporated into SCL in 2011 with Alexander Nix as one of the boards of directors.
It’s other two directors Avneesh Rai and Amrish Tyagi claim that SCL had nothing to do with Indian elections before 2011 and 2012 but would often use their work experience in India to impress domestic and foreign clients.
Multiple media reports state that two of the biggest political parties in India- Congress, and BJP were clients of Cambridge Analytica’s Indian arm OBI ( Ovleno Business Intelligence).
On Tuesday Wylie revealed at the UK parliament that the “Congress was a client” of Cambridge Analytica with pictures of Congress logo in Nix’s office doing the rounds on Twitter.
Buoyed by Wylie’s challenging note, Union Law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad launched a scathing attack on Congress for “lying’ and inappropriately using data services from Cambridge Analytica.
Prasad cited three news articles published between October and November 2017 that stacked up references of Cambridge Analytica being used as “Congress Brahmastra” to defeat Narendra Modi and win the Gujarat assembly elections in 2017.
Tagging the Congress party as “unethical” and using unfavorable means to gain victory in the elections the union law minister questioned Rahul Gandhi’s “credibility to govern the country”.
Prasad also raised speculations on Rahul Gandhi’s social media profile which is allegedly programmed by Cambridge Analytica to influence voters in Congress ‘ favor.
In order to ensure secure social networking platform and data privacy for all Facebook users in India the Law minister issued a notice addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying, “We are very tough when it comes to data protection in India. Notice has gone from the Indian government to the two companies. We should wait for their reply. We will take action after their reply,” Prasad told reporters.
The IT ministry in its notice to the networking giant which has the largest footprint of user database in India sought proactive measures to protect such a huge user database and to prevent any third party violation in future.
The past few days have witnessed a global outrage over the data theft of Facebook accounts in collusion with Cambridge Analytica which is accused of hijacking profiles of 50 million Facebook users to swing poll results in different countries like India, Argentina, US-Brazil, and Kenya.
Prasad has warned Facebook of taking “stringent action” for any attempt of a data breach to influence polls even lodging the option of summoning the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg if required.