All you need to know about Cambridge Analytica data breach in context of Indian politics! - The Fearless Indian
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All you need to know about Cambridge Analytica data breach in context of Indian politics!

  • Guest Writer
  • March 27, 2018
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What are the allegations against Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica is a big data analytics firm from UK. It is alleged that they used personal information harvested from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without permission to build a system that could target US voters with personalised political advertisements based on their psychological profile. Recently Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologised through full-page adverts in various UK and US newspapers for their firms association with Cambridge Analytica. He said, “Facebook could have done more to stop millions of users having their data exploited by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica in 2014.”

How was Cambridge Analytica related to the Indian political scenario?

It was alleged that Cambridge Analytica played a major role in President Donald Trump’s victory in the US through a targeted communication campaign. Following similar strategy Cambridge Analytica entered Indian political landscape through their sister concern called Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL). Company records show the firm has four directors: Alexander James Ashburner Nix, Alexander Waddington Oakes, Amrish Kumar Tyagi, and Avneesh Kumar Rai. The team had an eye for selling their services to parties and politicians for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. They then met top politicians in both the Congress and the BJP and came to the consensus that taking on the Congress as a client would be more beneficial as they were the ruling party back then.

Cambridge Analytica does two timing:

As per reports when the team approached top leaders of the Congress, the Congress showed interest but there was no official contract or work given to them, SCL team then decided that they will first show the Congress their capabilities and impress them to get the contract. SCL created a database of voters from four Lok Sabha constituencies—including Amethi, Rae Bareli, Jaipur Rural and Madhubani—and decided gift them to Rahul Gandhi for free to show-off their skills.

One of the partners Nix also met a top BJP leader who ‘slept through their presentation’. Nix to this as a cue to shift their focus from BJP to Congress and developed an Android app which has simple questions for the voters and their answers were to be fed in the app for analysis. Work began with this new app, eventually Rae Bareli and Amethi were mapped.

Suddenly the tables turned and a Gujrati American came into the picture, who said that an Indian businessman from US wanted to hire their services as he wanted to see Congress defeated. The duo didn’t think twice before changing their affiliations. According to sources, Nix had a straightforward reply, “I’m here to make money.” It is not certain if they went ahead with working for the anti-Congress client as Rai and Nix broke their partnership and went their own way professionally. It is said that Nix went back to focus on the US market. Nix has later made a statement where he boasts, “We have profiled the personality of every adult in the United States of America—220 million people.” We can discern from this statement to what extent the public data has been compromised and makes us doubt if we really have the power of free will?

The ghost of Cambridge Analytics returns; BJP- Congress play the blame game!

In a series of tweets BJP spokesperson and Union Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Congress for having links with the rogue data analysis firm. In one of his tweets, he said, “Will Congress party depend upon data manipulation and theft to win votes? Mr. Rahul Gandhi should explain the role of Cambridge Analytica in his social media profile.” This initiated the ugly blame game between the two parties BJP and Congress. In response to Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Congress alleged that BJP had hired the Indian arm of Cambridge Analytics to work on their campaign and leverage from voters data. Both the parties provided a series of screenshots of conversations between top leaders of the opposition party and head honchos of Cambridge Analytics or their sister concerns. None of the allegations by both the parties have been verified and their statements seem like a fabricated attempt to take advantage of the controversy.

‘App Ki Adalat’

The Congress made their envy for NaMo app very evident when they dragged it into this conspiracy. In a loose attempt to malign Prime Minister Modi’s image Rahul Gandhi tried to make the hashtag #DeleteNaMoApp trending on twitter. He tweeted, “Modi’s NaMo App secretly records audio, video, contacts of your friends & family and even tracks your location via GPS. He’s the Big Boss who likes to spy on Indians…If as PM he wants to use tech to communicate with India, no problem. But use the official PMO APP for it. This data belongs to India, not Modi.” He also stated that Modi wants data of the NCC cadets and hence, is forcing them to download the app. Such an accusation is appalling and baseless as the APP did not have anything to do with the controversy. Though Rahul Gandhi spoke about the NCC cadets in his tweet, in another separate incident he goofed up when asked a simple question about NCC cadets. Needless to say, the BJP didn’t hold back and went all out on Rahul Gandhi  and tweeted from the official party handle, saying, “Mr. RahulGandhi, you are technically challenged & won’t understand “this kind of stuff”. Yet we’ll explain: 1. Narendra Modi app is maintained by BJP. Hence it’s NaMo app, not PMO app. 2. But CM Siddu uses govt money to run ‘Siddaramaiah App’ & is abuse of office. The final nail on the coffin came yesterday when Congress who were hounding about deleting NaMo app ironically deleted their own app without giving any explanations.

Conclusion:

Amongst all the blame game, the ultimate verdict is still in the grey area, it’s ambiguous as to which parties have been associated with the rogue data analysis firm. Both the parties have forgotten to address the elephant in the room and are busy engaging in defaming each other without concrete proofs, just to get an edge over the other. In the meanwhile, the government has sent out a notice to Cambridge Analytica asking for the names of entities that have hired it in allegedly utilising data of Indians from the breach in Facebook database, failing which it may face legal action from the Ministry of Information and Technology. Now, next time when you get a notification asking to allow access to your personal data, THINK TWICE!

Disclaimer: *The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of The Fearless Indian.

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