Cambridge Analytica row: Whistle-blower Christopher Wylie says firm worked with Indian political parties since 2003

Cambridge Analytica (CA) director and whistle-blower Christopher Wylie said that the firm had worked with Indian political parties since 2003.

FP Staff March 28, 2018 17:09:51 IST
Cambridge Analytica row: Whistle-blower Christopher Wylie says firm worked with Indian political parties since 2003

Cambridge Analytica (CA) director and whistle-blower in the Facebook data leak controversy, Christopher Wylie, further shed light on the nexus between the firm and Indian political parties on Wednesday, revealing a list of SCL Group (Cambridge Analytica's parent company) projects in India.

Cambridge Analytica row Whistleblower Christopher Wylie says firm worked with Indian political parties since 2003

File image of Christopher Wylie. Reuters

Wylie tweeted that he had been getting a lot of requests from Indian journalists to disclose SCL's past projects in India. He tweeted a picture containing the firm's 'past national experience', pointing to various elections in which political parties employed SCL's caste research and analysis. "Yes, SCL/CA works in India and has offices there. This is what modern colonialism looks like," he said.

The data disclosed in the tweet, purportedly taken from the SCL Group website, said that the firm has a database of over 600 districts and seven lakh villages. "Our services help clients to identify and target key groups within the population to effectively influence their behaviour to realise the desired outcome," it said. The desired outcome, in this case, is to sway the election in the favour of the client (political party) by targetted campaigning.

According to Scroll, the British behavioural research company’s Indian arm carried out surveys of voters for Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) during the 2010 Bihar Assembly elections, as well as for a “major political party” during the 2007 polls in Uttar Pradesh.

SCL projects in India

Some of the elections in which SCL/CA was employed, as per the data in the image tweeted, are: 2009 Lok Sabha polls; Uttar Pradesh (2007, 2011, 2012); 2010 Bihar elections; 2007 Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand and UP polls; 2003 Madhya Pradesh elections; 2003 Rajasthan polls.

Cambridge Analytica row Whistleblower Christopher Wylie says firm worked with Indian political parties since 2003

An image containing a list of SCL/CA group's India projects, as tweeted by Christopher Wylie. Source: Twitter @chrisinsilico

Wylie on Tuesday said that the Congress party had employed the controversial firm for certain "regional projects". "I believe their client was Congress, but I know that they have done all kinds of projects. I don't remember a national project but I know regionally. India's so big that one state can be as big as Britain. But they do have offices there, they do have staff there," the 28-year-old said.

SCL offices in India

Wylie also disclosed a location of the firm's office and regional centres, owned and operated by SCL in India. The firm's head office is located in Ghaziabad and it has regional centres in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Guwahati and seven other locations.

Cambridge Analytica row Whistleblower Christopher Wylie says firm worked with Indian political parties since 2003

A list of SCL/CA group's offices and regional centres in India, as disclosed by Cristopher Wylie. Source: Twitter @chrisinsilico

Caste politics and booth management

Quoting the example of caste and communally sensitive regions in Uttar Pradesh – Kairana and Kanth, Moradabad – the tweet disclosed how the firm enabled political parties to take advantage of social engineering.

"A better understanding of the influence of caste on Indian politics will open up research avenues and allow the campaign team to target the population in the most effective and efficient way," the image read.

Cambridge Analytica row Whistleblower Christopher Wylie says firm worked with Indian political parties since 2003

An image containing the types of project SCL/CA undertook in Uttar Pradesh, as disclosed by Christopher Wylie. Source: Twitter @chrisinsilico

This disclosure assumes significance as the firm has been caught in a data leak controversy, with the Congress and BJP accusing each other over the past week of being associated in 'unfair' and possibly 'illegal' practices to acquire caste data to gain an edge in elections.

Wylie had earlier accused his former employer, Cambridge Analytica, of gathering the details of 50 million users on Facebook through a personality quiz in 2014. He alleges that because 270,000 people took the quiz, the data of some 50 million users, mainly in the US, was harvested without their explicit consent via their friend networks.

Wylie claims the data was sold to Cambridge Analytica, which then used it to psychologically profile people and deliver material in favour of Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential elections. He also criticised Cambridge Analytica for running campaigns in "struggling democracies", which he called "an example of what modern-day colonialism looks like".

With inputs from agencies.

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