Observer and The Guardian have been at the forefront making public about the improper use and harvesting of personal data involving about 50 million Americans by Cambridge Analytica. Christopher Wylie, former worker of Cambridge Analytica and Alexander Nix, head of Cambridge Analytica (currently suspended) started the conversation on data theft by disclosing about the use of Facebook data to benefit President Donald Trump in 2016 elections.
Christopher Wylie who has been part of Cambridge Analytica firm told Observer that the firm used personal details of Facebook users in 2014 to screen U.S. citizens and then generate personalized political advertisements for them. The whistleblower told, “we exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.”
Although Cambridge Analytica has denied any such mishap on their part. Refuting Wylie’s claims the firm stated that it had deleted all the data received from the platform of Facebook, once it knew how that data was gathered. “This Facebook data was not used by Cambridge Analytica as part of the services it provided to the Donald Trump presidential campaign; personality targeted advertising was not carried out for this client either,” it said. Alexander Nix, Chief Executive of Cambridge Analytica has been suspended after he was caught on tape bragging to British journalists that there were services of honey trap and fake stings offered to malign the political adversaries during the elections.
Steve Bannon who is Tump’s ex-chief strategist and was also a member of the “political consultancy” team working on the Facebook data to influence 2016 elections, offers a different perspective by saying that “Facebook data is for sale all over the world.” Sandy Parakilas, a former employee of Facebook told Guardian that it had warned the executives at Facebook about potential data breach due to the firm’s lenient approach to data protection. Recently, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder admitted to the “breach of trust” it caused to its users, and he apologized for the same. The social networking site also assured damage control by sharing that “a comprehensive audit” of Cambridge Analytica will be conducted by a digital forensics firm called Stroz Friedberg.
Back home, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be infuriated by the events and has accused its Opposition, Congress of indulging in services of the big data firm. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Law Minister alleged that Congress used Cambridge Analytica for recent Gujarat elections, and also in the functioning of Rahul Gandhi’s social media campaigns. He went on to say that Congress planned on using Cambridge Analytica in 2019 general elections.
“News about Congress engaged/engaging with Cambridge Analytica is absolutely false,” tweeted Divya Spandana while rejecting Mr. Prasad’s charges. Divya Spandana is the social media head of Congress party. Also reacting to Mr. Prasad’s comment was Randeep Surjewala, communications-in-charge for Congress when he called it “white lie.” He told, “Indian National Congress or the Congress President has never used or never hired the services of a company called Cambridge Analytica. It is a fake agenda and white lie being dished out by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.”