'Congress was Cambridge Analytica's client', says whistleblower Christopher Wylie
In a major twist to series of events related to data theft, Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who brought to the fore misuse of Facebook data, on Tuesday said he believed that the Congress party was a client of Cambridge Analytica. The revelation assumes significance as the BJP, had last week, questioned links between the Congress and Cambridge Analytica, the data mining firm accused of harvesting personal information from Facebook illegally to influence polls in several countries.
"I believe their (Cambridge Analytica) client was Congress. I don't remember a national project but I know regionally. India is so big that one state can be as big as Britain," reports quoted Wylie as saying while responding to a question on Cambridge Analytica's work in India by British Labour Party politician Paul Farrelly.
Information Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has demanded Rahul Gandhi's apology and said that Wylie's revelation has exposed the Congress.
"Today the whistleblower Christopher Wylie has confirmed that Cambridge Analytica worked with Congress. This has exposed Rahul Gandhi who was denying all along. Congress and Rahul Gandhi must now apologise," he said.
The IT Ministry had earlier asked Cambridge Analytica - the firm at the centre of Facebook data breach scandal - to respond by March 31 on six questions, including how the company had collected user data, whether consent was taken from the individuals, and how the data was used.
Cambridge Analytica's chief executive Alexander Nix has been suspended after he was exposed in a sting by Britain's Channel 4 News, while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been forced to issue a statement outlining his firm's role in the scandal and apologise.
What is Cambridge Analytica?
Cambridge Analytica, a data-driven company, which is in the eye of a storm in the wake of Facebook data breach offers services to businesses and political parties who want to "change audience behaviour".
Mainly, Cambridge Analytica offers services in two categories.
A. Data-driven marketing: We measurably improve your brand's marketing effectiveness by changing consumer behaviour.
B. Data-driven campaigns: By knowing your electorate better, we achieve greater influence while lowering overall costs.
The company claims to combine behavioural psychology with a statistically robust research methodology to provide the fullest picture of consumer behaviour, competition, and trends. After reviewing existing customer knowledge base, Cambridge Analytica conducts custom research projects tailored to specific needs of clients.
Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative techniques, incorporating unique behavioural sciences methodology, they map out an in-depth picture of audiences. The company collects data from a wide range of sources, including social media platforms such as Facebook, and its own polling.
The company was established in 2013 as an offshoot of another company called SCL Group, which offers similar services around the world. It's headquarters is in London. Alexander Nix was the CEO till he was suspended by the Board of Cambridge Analytica, pending a full, independent investigation. According to reports, Nix developed the political arm of the business.
Last year, he told Techcrunch of plans to publish a book about the company, provisionally titled 'Mad men to maths men'. Julian Wheatland is the Chief Financial Officer and DR Alex Tayler is Chief Data Officer. The managing director of Cambridge Analytica's political division is Mark Turnbull, who spent 18 years at the communications firm Bell Pottinger before joining SCL.