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Congress was a client, claims Cambridge Analytica whistleblower; Rahul Gandhi has been exposed, says BJP

 A Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie deposed on Tuesday before the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) in UK.

 Congress was a client, claims Cambridge Analytica whistleblower; Rahul Gandhi has been exposed, says BJP
Pic courtesy: ANI

New Delhi: A former employee of Cambridge Analytica turned whistleblower Christopher Wylie claimed on Tuesday that the company had worked extensively in India and believed it was employed by the Congress party during his evidence before a UK parliamentary committee.

Wylie deposed before the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee (DCMS) amid an escalating row around alleged Facebook data breaches linked with the controversial 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 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 added, on being probed further.

He offered to provide the committee "documentation" on India. During his evidence, Wylie also said that his predecessor, Dan Muresan, head of elections at SCL group, had also been working in India before he died in Kenya under mysterious circumstances. He claimed to have heard stories that Muresan, a Romanian national, may have been poisoned in a hotel room while in the African country, PTI reported.

Reacting to the news, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "Today the whistleblower Christopher Wylie has confirmed that Cambridge Analytics worked with Congress. This has exposed Rahul Gandhi who was denying it all along. Congress and Rahul Gandhi must now apologise.

Earlier, the BJP had launched a scathing attack on the Congress and had questioned the party on its relation with Cambridge Analytica.  “Will Congress party depend on data theft and manipulation to win elections? What is the role of Cambridge Analytica in social media profile of Rahul Gandhi?” Prasad had asked.

He had further alleged that imprints of the British firm were "visible" in the Congress' campaign in Gujarat. It ran a "poisonous and divisive campaign" in the state, Prasad had claimed.

Denying the charges, Congress president had accused the BJP of being a "lying factory". Rahul had also said that the BJP was making the real news "vanish" by accusing the Congress of working with the controversial firm.

At the same time, the Congress had alleged that the BJP hired the company's services in various state polls like in Bihar, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Delhi, besides for its 'Mission 272+' in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica said on Tuesday that Wylie has no direct knowledge of their work or practices.

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

On the other hand, Facebook, which has over two billion users globally, including over 200 million in India, had faced backlash on the data scandal issue, prompting chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to issue an apology for the "major breach of trust" and promising to take steps to protect user data. Facebook has also tweaked its usage policy for third-party apps, including login process, to ensure limited access to user information. 

(With Agency inputs)