It looks like the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data leak controversy will not die down soon. In a fresh twist to the controversy, CA whistleblower Christopher Wylie has claimed that the data analytics firm worked extensively in India and “believed” that the Indian National Congress employed the firm for certain regional elections in India.
“When you look at Facebook’s biggest market, India is the ‘top in the top’ in terms of numbers of users. Obviously, that’s a country which is rife with political discord opportunities for destabilization,” Labour MP Paul Farrelly, member of the parliamentary committees said during Wylie’s questioning.
I’ve been getting a lot of requests from Indian journalists, so here are some of SCL’s past projects in India. To the most frequently asked question – yes SCL/CA works in India and has offices there. This is what modern colonialism looks like. pic.twitter.com/v8tOmcmy3z
— Christopher Wylie (@chrisinsilico) 28 March 2018
Wylie said in response, “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. I mean India is so big that you know that one state can be, you know, as big as Britain.”
When probed by Farrelly about Cambridge Analytica’s role in India, Wylie said that the firm has offices and employees in the country and offered to produce documents related to the firm’s operation in India. “I believe I have some documentation on India, which I can also provide to the committee if that’s something of interest.”
In his testament, the 28-year-old whistleblower also stated that his predecessor, Dan Muresan, head of elections at Strategic Communications Laboratories, had also been working in India before he died in Kenya under mysterious circumstances.
Last week in an undercover report, Cambridge Analytica ex-CEO Alexander Nix and SCL Elections managing director Mark Turnbull had been caught boasting they had worked on more than 200 elections across the world, including India, Nigeria, Kenya, the Czech Republic and Argentina, among others.
Personal data protection expert Paul-Olivier Dehaye who took part in the data breach investigation and was giving evidence before the committee said that an “Indian billionaire” was paying Muresan to make sure that Congress lost. “According to reports from India, apparently he was really paid for by an Indian billionaire who actually wanted the Congress to lose. So he was pretending to work for one party but really… paid underhand by others,” he said.
Dehaye also suggested that Indian, Romanian and Kenya journalists should collaborate to investigate the matter further.
However, it is still not whether Wylie meant that Congress Cambridge Analytica’s only client in India or if there are other parties and individuals who have also hired the controversial UK-based data mining firm.
Soon after Wylie’s testimony, Cambridge Analytica issued a statement saying, “Chris Wylie was a part-time contractor who left Cambridge Analytica in July 2014 and has no direct knowledge of the company’s work or parties since that date,”
Meanwhile, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad immediately opened fire against Congress saying Congress party stood exposed and its president Rahul Gandhi should apologies for attempting to manipulate elections.
Prasad tweeted, “Rahul Gandhi needs to apologise to the nation for trying to subvert India’s election process using the Brahmastra of Cambridge Analytica. The nation demands an answer!”
Rahul Gandhi needs to apologise to the nation for trying to subvert India’s election process using the Brahmastra of Cambridge Analytica. The nation demands an answer!
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) 27 March 2018
“Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie has accepted before British Parliamentary committee that Cambridge Analytica worked for the Congress Party. This vindicates what we have been saying from day one. Rahul Gandhi has been trying to divert attention all these while,” his another tweet read.
Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie has accepted before British Parliamentary committee that Cambridge Analytica worked for the Congress Party.This vindicates what we have been saying from day one. Rahul Gandhi has been trying to divert attention all these while
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) 27 March 2018
Minutes later, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala vehemently denied all such charges and accused Ravi Shankar Prasad of lying and challenged the government to register a First Information Report (FIR) against Cambridge Analytica, its Indian partner Ovleno Business Intelligence and Facebook.
“The Congress has had no truck with Cambridge Analytica ever or have we ever hired its services. But BJP needs to answer, who was this NRI business person who hired Cambridge Analytica in the run-up to 2014 polls to manufacture false surveys, to ask leading questions and to bring down the Congress Government?” Surjewala asked.
We bring to you a timeline of the entire episode, as below: