Over the past week, there has been international outrage over revelations that British firm Cambridge Analytica, without authorisation, harvested personal data of 50 million Facebook users through a seemingly harmless personality quiz. This information was then allegedly used to tailor messages to voters to influence the 2016 US presidential elections, won by Donald Trump. The firm has also reportedly been involved in election campaigns across the world.
Much of the heat from the scandal has been directed at Facebook, which saw its shares plummet after the New York Times and the Observer broke the story. The social networking platform has been slammed for its weak privacy structures that allowed such data to be obtained and misused.
The row also has an India connection: the firm’s website claims that it worked on the Bihar elections in 2010 and helped its “client achieve a landslide victory”. That election was won by the Janata Dal (United) and Bharatiya Janata Party combine. Though Cambridge Analytica had not been founded at that point, its parent company, Strategic Communications Limited, was reportedly involed in the election campaign through an Indian affiliate, Ovleno Business Intelligence. The Indian company is run by Amrish Tyagi, the son of JD(U) MP KC Tyagi. The JD(U) has denied any collusion with Cambridge Analytica.
The BJP and the Congress have also since traded barbs, accusing each other of enlisting the British firm’s services.
In the midst of the mud-slinging and fear over the creation of a quasi surveillance state courtesy Facebook, Indian cartoonists found fodder for humour and satire. The row resonated doubly among Indian satirists as it coincides with concerns over the government’s Aadhaar biometric identity project, which has been criticised over repeated data leaks and privacy infringement.
Cartoonists across the world have also weighed in on the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica row, with much of the criticism directed at the social networking giant.
Some of the blame is to be shared by social media users too, as this cartoon points out, for continuing to tell all on the Internet despite repeated revelations of privacy breaches.