Close on the heels of Facebook’s data leak exposé, union minister for Law and Justice and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad stated that theft of data pertaining to Indian citizens to manipulate the democratic process will not be tolerated.
In an interview with ET, Prasad said if required, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg would be summoned to India.
There are media reports of alleged data impropriety by chief of data analytics of Congress by his previous employer. It's not just a question of association of Congress with a rogue company but a bigger challenge to free & fair elections & democratic values. #FacebookDataBreach pic.twitter.com/F3DTEIdOEf— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) March 21, 2018
Expressing his distrust, Prasad cited how social media was used to create social unrest before Gujarat elections. “Now Karnataka elections are coming up and therefore use of such rogue foreign companies by a political party for influencing elections becomes a big concern,” he tweeted.
Yesterday, Prasad made a direct allegation on the opposition party by asking what links UK-based data analytics firm - Cambridge Analytica had with social media management of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party.
How Cambridge-gate trickled down to Indian politics
Hoping for a leg-up in the 2019 general elections, the IT minister brought to light reports from October 2017 that indicate the possibility of the Congress Party being in discussions with Cambridge Analytica. “Will the Congress Party now depend upon data manipulation and data theft to win elections?” questioned Prasad.
Will the Congress Party now depend on data manipulation and data theft for winning elections? There were reports of sudden surge in Rahul Gandhi’s social media following by using bots. Are such things being used for developing fake followings on social media? #FacebookDataBreach pic.twitter.com/drqjXDg9Mn
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) March 21, 2018
Wasting no time to retaliate, Congress made a counter-allegation that claimed BJP had hired Cambridge Analytica during the Bihar and Gujarat elections.
Hindustan Times reported that Cambridge Analytica, in collaboration with its Indian partner Oveleno Business Intelligence, has been in talks with both BJP and Congress to target the 2019 general elections.
Backdrop: In the US, personal data of around 50 million users was reportedly harnessed to gather intelligence to propel Trump’s 2016 election campaign. A whistleblower revealed that in early 2014, personal information was collected without authorization, to build a system that profiles individual voters and then targets them with personalized political advertisement.