Facebook has no access to Election Commission's data, we are on guard: Chief Election Commissioner Rawat

Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat has said that engagement with people through social media remains a priority but not at the cost of data breaches.

Facebook has no access to Election Commission's data, we are on guard: Chief Election Commissioner Rawat
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(Reporting by Kartikeya Sharma)

New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat said on Friday that the India's Election Commission had limited engagement with  Facebook and therefore, no vulnerability exists here. 

A whistleblower said earlier this week that Cambridge Analytica, which US President Donald Trump hired for his 2016 election campaign, improperly accessed information on Facebook users to build detailed profiles on American voters. It has been suspected that Indian political parties too may have employed its services to pry on voters.

Rawat though has insisted that Facebook has had no access to EC's data and added that relationship with the social media giant has not been suspended as the whole issue regarding a possible data breach wordwide has not been diagnosed and confirmed. He also said that Election Commission is aware of the Cambridge-Analytica Facebook issue and is getting the matter enquired from Enforcement Agencies to double check  the possibility of any misuse of data that may have taken place ever. 
 
Rawat said that to the best of his knowledge, no such incident imitating what is being reported abroad has come into light in context of the Indian electoral process - either in way of complaint or fact.

"Social media is a reality and EC understands it. For this very reason, we have a social media policy and also a social media hub in the Election Commission," he said. "It is a powerful tool to connect with the voters and we will continue to engage people through it with adequate stipulation that data is not breached and misused. And if any incident comes to light then adequate steps will be taken."
 
Rawat also added that the EC has set up a committee to look into legal provision of emerging technological environment so that any attempt to influence Indian elections are nipped in the bud. "We will continue to harvest the potential of new technologies without becoming its victims," he said. He also said that fake news is the emerging challenge in the electoral arena and the EC is determined to ensure that it does not end up manipulating Indian election process. 
 
He further added that the Election Commission is concerned about new cybersecurity threat and to understand the emerging challenges, it had held a day-long meeting in March to understand the issue. "Election Commission has already unveiled cybersecurity regulations and we would be interacting with concerned agencies so that mechanisms are in place. Officers were made aware of the new challenges," said Rawat, adding that protecting IT systems is the biggest challenge currently.

(This interview was first published on wionews.com)

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