The BJP and the Congress on Wednesday accused each other of using the services of embattled data consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica (CA) that, along with Facebook, is at the centre of a global row over the alleged unauthorised use of personal data from the social media giant.
As the firestorm over the issue hit India, the government warned Facebook, which is being probed by US and British lawmakers over a potential breach of user confidentiality, of stringent action if any attempt was made to influence the country's electoral process through "undesirable means".
However, the company's India partner, Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI), lists the BJP, the Congress and the JD(U) as its clients. The India partner is by Amrish Tyagi, son of senior JD(U) leader KC Tyagi. In media interviews, the junior Tyagi admitted that the Youth Congress in Jharkhand, the BJP and the JD(U) had used its services to conduct research.
OBI's website was taken down soon after the slugfest between the BJP and the Congress started, reported News18. The company’s website proclaimed that BJP, Congress and JD(U) were its clients, apart from ICICI Bank and Airtel. The website said that it works on “political campaign management” and had photos of Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal on its homepage. However, the company did not list Aam Aadmi Party as its client.
The BJP had first hit out at Congress, accusing it of compromising national security by reportedly roping in political data analytics firm CA to run its 2019 election campaign. It had alleged that CA had been found involved in data manipulation and warned that any attempt to misuse social media to influence India's electoral process would not be tolerated and the government would take necessary legal action.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that CA is accused of using bribes, sex workers to entrap politicians and stealing data from Facebook. Accusing Congress of depending upon data manipulation and theft to win votes, Prasad had also asked the Congress whether it depends on data theft, and found manipulation ability the sole criteria to hire CA. Citing media reports, the BJP leader had also asked the Congress to clarify whether now-sacked CA CEO Alexender Nix has met several opposition leaders to design the the UPA's electoral strategy for the next Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress had responded quickly as it denied links to CA while accusing the BJP of having availed its services in 2010. "The Congress or its President have never used or hired the services of Cambridge Analytica," said Congress communications in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala, hours after Prasad aired his accusations.
"This is fake agenda, a white lie being dished out on fake facts by the Law Minister. And this has become a daily order with Prasad," he had said, alleging that it was actually the BJP and its ally JD(U) which used the services of CA in 2010.
For this, he cited the firm, saying on its website, that it "was contracted to undertake an in-depth electoral analysis for Bihar assembly elections in 2010".
"If the company does manipulation, why were the BJP and the JD(U) using it? But in his pack of lies, he forgot to tell the truth," the Congress leader had said, accusing the BJP of seeking to divert attention from urgent issues through "fake news".
The Congress had also said that the LinkedIn profile of Himanshu Sharma, who is the vice-president of OBI, lists achievements like achieving Mission 272+ for the BJP and elections in other states.
CA, the London-based data consultancy firm in the midst of a global row, has allegedly been using Facebook users' data to unfairly influence election results by psychological manipulation, entrapment techniques and fake news campaigns.
But Britain's Channel 4 News on Monday exposed how senior executives at CA were caught on camera suggesting that the firm could use sex workers, bribes and misinformation in order to try and help political candidates win votes around the world. The investigation followed articles published by The New York Times and The Observer that outlined how the data of millions of Facebook profiles ended up being given to CA. The companies have denied any wrongdoing.
With inputs from IANS
Updated Date: Mar 22, 2018 12:21 PM