The Congress on Tuesday denied that it had been a client of controversial data analytics company Cambridge Analytica, hours after a former employee made the claim before a British parliamentary panel. The Bharatiya Janata Party had used the whistleblower’s claim to target the Congress and asked the party to apologise.
Christopher Wylie, who worked with Cambridge Analytica in the past, said the company worked “extensively” in India and had offices and staff here. He told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK Parliament that the Congress party might have been a client.
“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...” Wylie said. “India is so big that one state can be as big as Britain. But they do have offices there, they do have staff there.”
He said he might have some documentation on the company’s work in India, which he could provide to the committee.
Soon after his claim, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that this had “exposed [Congress President] Rahul Gandhi who was denying all along”, ANI reported. He sought an apology from Gandhi.
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said the claim was false. “It is all false, why is India’s perpetually lying law minister throwing allegations in the media,” he said. “He is in power, why doesn’t he show all the proof and then register an FIR. We challenge you. They fear they will be exposed if they probe.”
Wylie’s other claims
Cambridge Analytica, a British political data analytics company, is accused of using the private data of more than five crore Facebook users to influence voters during the 2016 presidential elections in the United States. Facebook, the other company involved in the controversy, will send its technology or product head, and not Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, to answer the MPs’ questions. The committee said it still wanted to meet Zuckerberg, Reuters reported.
Wylie submitted to the committee a large stash of documents, likely covering the role of Cambridge Analytica and other such companies in elections round the world, including the Brexit campaign and the 2016 elections in the United States, The Guardian reported. In an election in Nigeria, for instance, Canadian company AggregateIQ had distributed violent videos to intimidate people, Wylie claimed.
He also said that AggregateIQ built a software that was used to identify Republican voters before the presidential election in the United States. Wylie said from his understanding, it was “common practice” for Cambridge Analytica to use tactics like hacking.
Damian Collins, the chair of the committee, said the MPs would study the documents and may publish some of the material on Wednesday.