Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat on Thursday said the poll panel will review its association with Facebook, in light of the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, The Indian Express reported. The Election Commission has partnered with the social media giant three times over the last year to encourage the enrollment of young voters.
Cambridge Analytica is a British firm accused of using the private data of more than five crore Facebook users to influence voters during United States President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
Whistleblower Christopher Wylie – who worked with Cambridge Analytica – claimed the firm collected data through a personality quiz on the social networking site, and used it to profile people and deliver pro-Trump material to them.
Rawat said the commission was worried about the data harvesting allegations. “It is something which can affect the election arena in an adverse manner, like public opinion being moulded,” he told the daily.
Under Chief Electoral Officer Nasim Zaidi, the panel and the social media platform had in July 2017 sent all Indian users reminders to register as voters, in 13 Indian languages. When AK Joti took over, Facebook ran a campaign under which all users who were going to turn 18 got a “wish” on their birthdays, along with a reminder to register as a voter. In January 2018, the Election Commission announced a National Voters’ Day pledge feature on Faceboook.
Data breach and India
Apart from using the private data of millions, Cambridge Analytica is also accused of using shell companies, sex workers, fake news and bribes to sway election outcomes in several countries, according to a report by the Channel4News. These claims were purportedly made by top executives to the channel’s undercover reporters.
The channel also claims to have evidence of the firm’s officials boasting about having worked in election campaigns across the world, including India.
Union Minister for Law and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad warned the social media giant of stringent action, and said India would summon CEO Mark Zuckerberg to India if the data of Indian users were compromised.
Zuckerberg, however, earlier assured users that Facebook was committed to ensuring the integrity of upcoming elections in India and other countries.
“We have a responsibility to do this, not only for the 2018 midterms in the US, which are going to be a huge deal this year...” he said. “There’s a big election in India this year, there’s a big election in Brazil, there are big elections around the world, and you can bet that we are really committed to doing everything that we need to to make sure that the integrity of those elections on Facebook is secured.”