Many politicians, parties used Cambridge Analytica's services in India, whistleblower tweets

Whistleblower Christopher Wylie has accused his former employer, Cambridge Analytica, of gathering the details of 50 million users on Facebook through a personality quiz in 2014. 

Many politicians, parties used Cambridge Analytica's services in India, whistleblower tweets
Pic courtesy: PTI

New Delhi: Cambridge Analytica's former employee Christopher Wylie on Wednesday said the controversial British firm had an Indian arm and conducted election research on behalf of some political parties, among other things.

Wylie said SCL Group, the parent organisation of Cambridge Analytica, has its office headquartered in Indirapuram in Ghaziabad and its regional offices in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Cuttack, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kolkata, Patna and Pune. "SCL/CA works in India and has offices there. This is what modern colonialism looks like," he tweeted.

Following is what he has posted on the social media site:

"SCL India has a database of over 600 districts and 7 lakhs villages, which is constantly being updated. Our micro-level information includes household-level demographics, specifically focusing on caste data, linked to online mapping applications. Our services help clients to identify and target key groups within the population to effectively influence their behaviour to realise the desired outcome. We provide our clients with the research to develop and disseminate the right messages, from the right sources, using the right communication channels."

"In 2012, SCL India carried out a caste census in Uttar Pradesh on behalf of a national party. The research included analysis of caste structure and dynamics within the state leading to conclusions regarding the Identification of the party's core voters as well as likely swing voters. In 2011, SCL India undertook a statewide (200m people) research campaign to identify voter caste by household.This booth level polling data formed the basis of further research into swing voter motivation and supporter mobilisation strategies, which were presented to individual candidates and tailored to their constituencies."

"In the 2009 General Elections, SCL India managed the campaigns of a number of Lok Sabha candidates.The research and campaign teams employed SCL India's proprietary data collect on methodologies to form strategies that gave the clients successful election campaigns. SCL India was asked to provide electoral research and strategy for the 2010 state elections for the Janata Dal (United). SCL undertook a behavioural research programme targeting over 75% of households to assist the client in not only identifying the correct battlegrounds, but also the right audiences, messages and most importantly the right castes to target with their campaigns."

"In the 2007 Uttar Pradesh elections, SCL India carried out a full political survey on behalf of a major party. The research included a party audit and a state-wide census of politically active individuals using in-depth interviews to assess the satisfaction levels of party workers at booth level. In 2007, SCL India was asked to undertake a research communication campaign to support a transnational programme for countering the non-desired behaviour (NOB) of recruitment into and support of violent jihadism. The project focused on ancillary populations as opposed to perpetrators of violent jihadism themselves and required in-depth motivational understanding of the populations of six states." 

"SCL India carried out a psephological study and opinion polling for a national party to identify swing voters.This was followed by a more in-depth analysis of the behavioural dynamics at work in key seats which in turn informed the party's efforts to ensure a local structure and communication strategy that matched the caste make-up and attitudinal positions of the pre-identified 'swing population'."

"A major state party contracted SCL India to carry out two pieces of work, one internal and aimed at assessing the party's organisational strength (party audit), the other external and looking at the nature of the voting population and more particularly the attitudes and behaviours of politically-active individuals within the state. Both consisted of quantitative surveys interviews, the product of which was analysed using the behavioural dynamics methodology, though the subject of the enquiries and the implications for the party's strategic approach were naturally very different. SCL India also assisted the party in understanding how to use the diverse findings."

On Tuesday too, Wylie had claimed that the company had worked extensively in India and had said he believed it was employed by the Congress party during his evidence before a UK parliamentary committee.

Wylie had deposed before the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee (DCMS) amid an escalating row over alleged Facebook data breaches linked with the UK-based company.

"When you look at Facebook's biggest market, India is the top in terms of numbers of users. Obviously, that's a country which is rife with political discord and opportunities for destabilisation," said Labour MP Paul Farrelly, member of the parliamentary committee, during his questioning. "They (Cambridge Analytica) worked extensively in India. They have an office in India," Wylie had responded.

"I believe their client was Congress, but I know that they have done all kinds of projects. I don't remember a national project but I know regionally. India's so big that one state can be as big as Britain. But they do have offices there, they do have staff there," the 28-year-old had added, on being probed further, PTI reported.

Wylie has accused Cambridge Analytica, of gathering the details of 50 million users on Facebook through a personality quiz in 2014. He has alleged that because 270,000 people took the quiz, the data of some 50 million users, mainly in the US, was harvested without their explicit consent via their friend networks.

Wylie claims the data was sold to Cambridge Analytica, which then used it to psychologically profile people and deliver material in favour of Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential elections. He also criticised Cambridge Analytica for running campaigns in "struggling democracies", which he called "an example of what modern-day colonialism looks like".

Cambridge Analytica denies any of the data acquired was used as part of the services it provided to the Trump campaign.

(With Agency inputs)

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