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Congress-BJP slugfest over Facebook data breach, Cambridge Analytica continues

Thursday March 22, 2018 3:46 PM, News Network

Cambridge Analytica

New Delhi: Facebook data breach issue continued to rule Indian political arena for the second day on Thursday with Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accusing the Congress of using the services of Cambridge Analytica in Gujarat polls even as Rahul Gandhi charged the ruling BJP of inventing stories to divert attention.

Cambridge Analytica is a London-based data analytics firm. Facebook came under fire earlier this week when the data of over 50 million Facebook users was leaked. It all started in 2014, when an academic of Russian origin Aleksandr Kogan created a Facebook app which paid thousands of users to take a psychological test. The app asked the users for the personal details of their Facebook friends. Then Kogan sold the same data to Cambridge Analytica.

Kogan violated the Facebook policy by selling the data as the app was not allowed to use the data for commercial purposes. After learning this, Facebook suspended Cambridge Analytica and Kogan but it also came under scanner and started receiving criticism from various sectors.

Soon after the matter came to light BJP and Congress blamed each other of using the services of Cambridge Anaytica through its India partner Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI) - a compnay owned by Amrish Tyagi, the son of Janata Dal (United) leader KC Tyagi.

Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad started the blame game on Wednesday alleging that the Congress had been in contact with the firm. "My question to Congress party is whether to win elections, Congress will depend on data manipulation and theft of data. What is the role of Cambridge Analytica in social media profile of Rahul Gandhi," Ravi Shankar Prasad said quoting reports while talking to reporters at the Parliament House complex.

"We support press freedom but don't like misuse of social media in the electoral process. As IT and law minister, I have to make it clear," he added.

Ravi Shankar Prasad's allegations were immediately refuted by the Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala. Quoted information from the data mining firm's website Surjewala countered that BJP and JD(U) had hired Cambridge Analytica for a electorate analysis for Bihar Assembly election in 2010.

Congress party Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter on Thursday firing fresh onslaught on the BJP over the issue and said the ruling party is raking up the issue to divert the attention from the death of 39 Indians in Iraq.

“Problem: 39 Indians dead; Govt on the mat, caught lying. Solution: Invent story on Congress & Data Theft. Result: Media networks bite bait; 39 Indians vanish from radar. Problem solved,” Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.

In a counter attack on Congress party, Ravi Shankar on Thursday said Cambridge Anaytica’s services were used by the Congress during Gujarat Assembly elections. "Rahul Gandhi’s entire social media campaign during Gujarat elections was taken care of by Cambridge Analytica", he alleged.

Meanwhile, citing the data records of Cambridge Analytica and Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI), some reports have claimed that BJP, Congress and Janata Dal (U) had used their services in the elections and they are mentioned by the two firms as their clients.

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