New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress traded charges on Wednesday over links with British firm Cambridge Analytica, which is in the eye of the storm over misuse of Facebook profiles for political campaigns.
A report in Britain's Channel-4 had alleged that CA used data mined from Facebook without user consent in the voter research it conducted to influence 2016 US elections campaign for Donald Trump.
Quoting channel-4 report, Information Technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged that Congress had liased with the UK firm for election strategy, hinting that a similar attempt could have been made in India too. He posed three questions to the party on whether it had employed the company at a press conference in Delhi.
“Will the Congress party depend on data manipulation and theft to woo voters? Does the Congress endorse the methods used by Cambridge Analytica, namely sex, sleaze and fake news? What is Cambridge Analytica’s role in Rahul Gandhi’s social media profile?” he asked in a press conference at Parliament house in Delhi.
A screenshot of OBI's website proclaiming that the BJP, Congress and JD(U) were all its clients. OBI is a part of the joint venture of SCL India. SCL is the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.
In a press statement BJP citing unnamed media reports claimed “now sacked Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix had met several opposition leaders to design electoral strategy for the UPA in the next Lok Sabha elections”.
The Congress rubbished the charges and instead pointed fingers at the BJP for employing the services of the data analytics firm.
Congress IT cell head Divya Spandana a.k.a Ramya said, “Congress has never and is not employing Cambridge Analytica. The company only works with right-wing parties, not liberals. Their website itself says they work with BJP."
The party’s communication in charge, Randeep Surjewala, said the BJP’s allegations were another addition to the list of “fake news” produced by the party. “It appears fake statements, fake press conferences and fake agendas have become an everyday character of BJP and its 'lawless' Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad,” he said at a press conference.
He said that Cambridge Analytica website shows that in 2010 its services were used by BJP-JD(U).
Surjewala also alleged that BJP had liased with Ovleno Business Intelligence, a firm that is a part of the joint venture of SCL (Strategic Communications Laboratories) India. SCL is the Britain-based parent company of Cambridge Analytica.
The website of OBI proclaims that it works on “political campaign management”. It lists as its clients the BJP, the Congress, the JD (U), ICICI Bank and Airtel. On the page are also photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Arvind Kejriwal, but it does not list the Aam Aadmi Party as one of its clients.
“Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI) is being run by BJP ally's MP's son. OBI company's services were also used by Rajnath Singh in 2009,” Surjewala added.