As the controversy around Cambridge Analytica unwrapped early this week, major political parties in India are being held guilty for using its services for data theft during their election campaigning processes.

Cambridge Analytica, a British data analysis and political consultancy firm launched with the help of Steve Bannon, the former strategist to the US, Donald Trump and the former head of Breitbart News. SCL, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica specialises in data mining, analysis and designing political strategies for electoral processes held globally.

What is the controversy?

The controversy unearthed when Chris Wylie, a 28-year-old, ex-employee of the company revealed the modus operandi of the company in a news interview.

According to him, Cambridge Analytica used a personality profile app to acquire the data of Facebook users in 2014. As the app could accumulate data of only 3,00,000 Facebook users who downloaded it, they unscrupulously pulled data from the ‘Facebook Friends’ of these users, amounting to data of 50 million users without their acknowledgement. The company then conducted campaigns micro-targeting the users on their precedence and choices, which consequently lead Donald Trump to win the elections.

After few newspapers reported the controversy about the theft of personal data of users from Facebook thereby influencing elections by unfair use of data analysis, the firm is being highly condemned not only in U.K. and USA but in India too. The company has also suspended its current CEO, Alexander Nix.

The matter heated up in India when the company asserted that Ovleno Business Intelligence(OBI), the Indian arm of Cambridge Analytica and SCL, has used data analytics to regulate the election campaigns of BJP, Congress and JDU since 2010.

OBI, the Indian partner of UK based Cambridge Analytica and SCL, now the main accused of the Facebook data breach in India handled political campaign management and electorate analysis during Bihar Assembly in  2010.

OBI listed Congress, BJP and JDU as it’s main patrons but the parties have denied and instead accused one another of availing its services during their campaigns.

Congress asserted that OBI had designed BJP’s election campaign in 2014 Lok Sabha elections by providing them constituency based data.  Relatively, BJP had put down the allegations by claiming Congress’s association with OBI and Cambridge Analytica for its 2019 electoral campaigns.

The Indian authorities had warned Mark Zuckerberg regarding the data breach and also signalled that strict action could be taken against Facebook if any data breach of Indians come to light using the IT Act that includes summoning it in India.

Cambridge Analytica has provided its services for electoral processes in countries including South Africa, Colombia, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia and Thailand.


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