India’s Congress Party Used Cambridge Analytica Services, Says Whistleblower
Congress denied the claim by Christopher Wylie, and demanded the name of the NRI businessman who is said to have worked with Cambridge Analytica for the party's defeat.
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie said that he “believed” that India’s Congress party had used the controversial data analytics firm’s services for regional political campaigns and that the company had worked extensively in India. Wylie made the remarks while testifying before the United Kingdom Parliament on March 27.
Wylie was deposing before the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS). The 28-year-old data analytics expert told the lawmakers that Cambridge Analytica has offices and employees in India, and offered to hand over relevant “documentation” to the Parliamentary committee investigating the matter.
“They (Cambridge Analytica) worked extensively in India. They have an office in India… 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,” Wylie said under oath.
— Sachin Singh (@sachinsingh1010) March 27, 2018
At the hearing, personal data protection expert Paul-Olivier Dehaye said that an Indian billionaire paid SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, to make sure Congress lost the elections. He said that SCL Group’s former head of elections, Dan Muresan, was “pretending to work for one party but actually paid underhand by someone else,” according to the Times of India.
Wylie also corroborated this partly, saying that Muresan, a Romanian national, was working in India before dying in Kenya under mysterious circumstances.
India’s biggest national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC), have been blaming each other for using Cambridge Analytica.
The Congress asked Cambridge Analytica to name the NRI businessman who hired the firm to ensure Congress’ defeat in 2014. “BJP needs to answer. Who was the NRI businessman who hired Cambridge Analytica in the run-up to 2014 polls to manufacture false surveys, to ask leading questions and to bring down the government?,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, according to the Economic Times. “It is preposterous to assume that a company which was used by an NRI businessman to bring down the Congress government in 2014 will be used by the Congress,” Surjewala said.
The BJP, on its part, demanded an apology from Congress president Rahul Gandhi over the issue. “The whistleblower has publicly confirmed that the Congress was indeed their client,” Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said. “Rahul Gandhi had been trying to divert attention. Today, he stands exposed. The Congress and Rahul Gandhi must apologize to the nation.”
Wylie said that data from 50 million Facebook accounts was sold to them at Cambridge Analytica, which then profiled the data and delivered pro-Donald Trump material for the 2016 United States elections. He said that Cambridge Analytica was also used in countries that are struggling democracies, which he called “an example of what modern-day colonialism looks like.”
He added: “You have a wealthy company from a developed nation going into an economy or democracy that’s still struggling to get its feet on the ground – and taking advantage of that to profit from that.”
Meanwhile, the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued a notice to Cambridge Analytica asking for information related to data of Indians collected by the company or its associates.
The revelations by Wylie over the last few days have put Facebook in a precarious position since the data used by Cambridge Analytica was leaked from the social media company. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has since then issued a statement apologizing for the mistake.
The revelation has also worried lawmakers in the United States and the United Kingdom about the extent to which Cambridge Analytica influenced voters during the 2016 U.S. elections and the Brexit referendum earlier that year.