Data scandal hots up: Congress 'hand' emerges in Cambridge Analytica office

Congress hand symbol can be seen in Cambridge Analytica's London office
After Chris Wylie, the whistleblower in the Cambridge Analytica (CA) data-breach scandal, said that Congress had hired the company, the party refuted the claims. However, a video screen grab of Cambridge Analytica’s suspended Chief Executive Officer Alexander Nix’s London office shows a poster with Congress’ hand symbol.

The image, which surfaced on social media on Wednesday, clearly shows Congress’ hand symbol with the party slogan — ‘Development for all’.

Christopher Wylie, a former employee of CA, had told MPs during his evidence before the UK Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee yesterday that the company had worked "extensively" in India and that he believes Congress was one of its clients.

In a post on Twitter today, the 28-year-old also named the Janata Dal (United) as a client during the 2010 Bihar elections and brought up some caste surveys carried out in Uttar Pradesh by SCL India the parent company of CA.

"I've been getting a lot of requests from Indian journalists, so here are some of SCL's past projects in India. To the most frequently asked question yes SCL/CA works in India and has offices there. This is what modern colonialism looks like," Wylie tweeted.

 
His message includes documents which indicate that SCL India boasted a database of "over 600 districts and 7 lakh villages, which is constantly being updated".

Its reach in India is said to include a head office in Ghaziabad, with nine regional offices in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Cuttack, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kolkata, Patna and Pune.

Here are the top developments in the Cambridge Analytica and Indian elections row:

1. Congress ‘hand’ symbol in Cambridge Analytica’s office: The Persuasion Machine, the last of the two-part documentary series 'Secrets of the Silicon Valley', which was released last year shows journalist and technology blogger Jamie Barlett meeting Cambridge Analytica's now-suspended CEO Alexander Nix in his London office. The background of the office shows the 'hand' symbol of the Congress along with the party slogan 'Development for all', according to Economic Times. 

The documentary had investigated the role of technology in the election campaign of the United States President Donald Trump. Barlett had met Nix to talk about Trump's election campaign.

Congress hand symbol can be seen in Cambridge Analytica's London office

2. Cambridge Analytica employee on India project may have been poisoned

A Romanian employee of Cambridge Analytica (CA), who worked on its project in India, may have been "poisoned" in Kenya, an ex-employee has told a British parliamentary select committee.

Christopher Wylie told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Tuesday that Dan Muresan, who had worked on the Indian project, was suspected to have been poisoned in his Kenyan hotel room in 2012 after a deal went sour.

Wylie said that CA worked "effectively" in India with an office and staff there and "I believe their (CA's) client was Congress".

3. Cambridge Analytica-JD(U) link: Christopher Wylie on Wednesday said his former employer Cambridge Analytica had an Indian arm and conducted election research on behalf of some parties including the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), now a BJP ally, for "desired outcome".

Wylie said SCL Group, the parent organisation of Cambridge Analytica, has its office headquartered in Indirapuram in Ghaziabad and its regional offices in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Cuttack, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kolkata, Patna and Pune.

This is what he tweeted: 

I've been getting a lot of requests from Indian journalists, so here are some of SCL's past projects in India. To the most frequently asked question - yes SCL/CA works in India and has offices there. This is what modern colonialism looks like. pic.twitter.com/v8tOmcmy3z

— Christopher Wylie (@chrisinsilico) March 28, 2018

He posted two pictures of what looks like slides of a pitch presentation of SCL India explaining its national experience in the country.

It said the company has a database of over 600 districts and seven lakh villages. But it didn't identify the source of the database or whether it was collected from any social media sites.

In the 2010 Bihar elections, SCL India was asked to provide electoral research and strategy for the JD-U of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

The whistleblower while testifying before the UK Parliament on Tuesday said Congress was a client of the firm and that SCL/CA works in India and has offices there. "This is what modern colonialism looks like."

In 2009 general elections, SCL India managed the campaigns of a number of Lok Sabha candidates, and its research and campaign data collection methodologies formed strategies to give the clients successful campaigns.

It mentioned the CA also undertook various other projects including Psephological studies and behavioural poling in Delhi and Chhattisgarh; electoral research and strategy for Janata Dal (United) in the 2010 state elections; research-based campaigns to support a trans-national programme for countering the Non-Desired Behaviour (NDB) of recruitment into, and support of, violent Jihadism in Kerala, West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh in 2007.

He revealed the firm also worked on psephological studies and opinion pollings for a national party in 2003 Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan elections.

4. JD(U) refutes allegations: The Janata Dal (United) on Wednesday rejected allegations that it had used caste analysis provided by Cambridge Analytica, accused of data breach, saying the party does not believe in using such means for electoral politics.

The party's reaction came after Christopher Wylie, who blew the lid off the alleged scam involving mining of Facebook user data to manipulate elections, tweeted details that claim to expose the British consultancy's work in India dating back to 2003.

Wylie, 28, has claimed that SCL India was asked to provide electoral research and strategy for the 2010 Bihar elections for the JD (U).

But JD (U) leader K C Tyagi rejected the allegation, saying his party does not believe in using data for electoral politics.

"I have said this in the past. I repeat again that the JD (U) does not believe in such means. We fight elections the way it should be contested," he said.

5. Congress shows BJP- Cambridge Analytica links: Tuesday's revelations have already initiated a blame game between the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, with the BJP demanding an apology from the grand old party and the Congress hit back by denying the allegations and asking Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to initiate a probe into the matter as it would only expose the ruling party.

At a press conference, the Congress alleged links between the BJP and Cambridge Analytica. As an evidence, it shared that the former BJP IT data head and current head of MyGov website Arvind Gupta tweet praising Cambridge Analytica in 2017. It also claimed that Union minister Smriti Irani follows Cambridge Analytica on Twitter.

6. Ex-Cambridge Analytica employee names Congress as a client: Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie on Tuesday told British Parliament that his company worked in India and that he "believes" Congress was a client.

"I believe their (Cambridge Analytica) 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," he said as part of his deposition.

Wylie also told the lawmakers that Cambridge Analytica has offices in India and employed staff. "I believe I have some documentation on India which I can also provide to the committee if that's something of interest."

In a disposition to UK House of Commons, Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower in Cambridge Analytica case, names Rahul Gandhi’s Congress as one of Analytica’s clients in India. Will Rahul answer what was discussed with Alexander Nix and how much data of Indians has been stolen? pic.twitter.com/s3V81GO5zd

— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) March 27, 2018

Data analytics expert and formerly an employee at Cambridge Analytica, Wylie, alleged that the political consultancy firm used personal information harvested from more than 50 million Facebook users to influence elections.

7. BJP seeks apology from Rahul Gandhi: The BJP on Tuesday attacked the Congress over Chris Wylie’s deposition naming the Opposition party. The BJP demanded an apology from Congress President Rahul Gandhi. “Rahul Gandhi has been trying to divert attention. Today, he stands exposed. The Congress and he must apologise to the nation,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, adding the Congress’ allegations against the BJP were full of lies.

8. Congress dubs links with Cambridge Analytica ' all false': The Congress did not shy away from responding to the allegations against it. Its spokesperson, Randeep Singh Surjewala, pointed to the disclosure that a non-resident Indian billionaire from Gujarat was funding campaigns so that the Congress could be defeated in the elections. "It is all false. Why is India's perpetually lying Law Minister (Ravi Shankar Prasad) throwing allegations in the media. He is in power. Why doesn't he show all proof and then register an FIR? We challenge you (Bharatiya Janata Party). They fear they will be exposed if they probe," said party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.

दो दिन पहले ही Cambridge Analytica के पार्टनर श्री अवनीश राय जी द्वारा माना गया कि CA को कांग्रेस के ख़िलाफ़ 2014 के चुनाव में इस्तेमाल किया गया,किसके द्वारा किया गया? 2/https://t.co/cX6EUzu0SK

— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) March 27, 2018

विदेश से आये एक NRI गुजराती व्यापारी के द्वारा जो इस बात के लिए करोड़ों रुपये CA को दे रहे थे कि किस प्रकार से कांग्रेस के खिलाफ षड्यंत्र किया जाये!

उसके बाद भाजपा की कलई खुल गयी!

कांग्रेस के खिलाफ षड्यंत्र कौन करवा रहा था?

स्वाभाविक तौर से भारतीय जनता पार्टी ! 3/

— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) March 27, 2018

रवि शंकर प्रसाद जी यह भूल गए कि House of Commons में एक सांसद ने उसी व्यक्ति से खड़े होकर यह पुछा कि Cambridge Analytica किस प्रकार से कांग्रेस के खिलाफ एक षड्यंत्र कर रही थी और एक NRI उसको पैसे दे रहा था।

इसके बारे में भी कानून मंत्री अब सफाई देने से पूरी तरह से बच गए। 4/

— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) March 27, 2018

देश के सामने गंभीर समस्याएं है, समेत Date और Data चोरी की,भाजपा ने तो चुनाव आयोग की Date भी चोरी कर ली और Data तो इस देश का हर रोज़ चोरी हो रहा है वह "AADHAAR" हो या NaMo App हो!

तो इसलिए ध्यान मत भटकाइये,जवाब दीजिये,क्या आपको इस देश के खुद के नागरिक अवनीश राय पर विश्वास नहीं?5/

— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) March 27, 2018

रवि शंकर प्रसाद जी,आप कानून मंत्री है, आपकी पार्टी के प्रधानमंत्री है,आप क्यूँ सारे सबूत, क्यूँ सारे साक्ष्य,क्यूँ सारे तथ्य सार्वजनिक पटल पर नहीं रख देते?

किसने किसको engage किया,कौन कहाँ से कितना पैसा लाया-इस सारे घालमेल का सच देश के सामने आ जायेगा। 6/https://t.co/cX6EUzu0SK

— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) March 27, 2018

9. Chris Wylie had no direct knowledge of company's work since 2014: Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica (CA), which is in the midst of the Facebook data privacy storm, has come to the fore and responded to the hearing of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, saying that whistleblower Chris Wylie had "no direct knowledge of the company's work or practices since 2014."

"Chris Wylie was a part-time contractor who left Cambridge Analytica in July 2014 and has no direct knowledge of the company's work or practices since that date. He was at the company for less than a year, after which he was made the subject of restraining undertakings to prevent his misuse of the company's intellectual property while attempting to set up his own rival firm. He was not, as he claims, a founder of Cambridge Analytica," the firm, said in a statement.

"Wylie has misrepresented himself and the company to the committee, and previously to the news media. He admits himself that what he says is speculation," the statement added.

10. Indian billionaire paid Dan Muresan to make Congress lose elections: Wylie 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. Paul-Olivier Dehaye, co-founder of PersonalData.IO, a service that helps individuals regain control over their personal data, also giving evidence to the committee, added that he had heard reports that Muresan was being paid by an Indian billionaire who wanted Congress to lose elections.

"So he was pretending to work for one party but actually paid underhand by someone else," said Dehaye. He added that it would be for Indian and Kenyan journalists to get together to investigate the matter further.

11. Cambridge Analytica has details of 50 million Facebook users: 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".

"You have a wealthy company from a developed nation going into an economy or democracy that's still struggling to get its feet on the ground and taking advantage of that to profit from that," he told MPs.

Cambridge Analytica denies any of the data acquired was used as part of the services it provided to the Trump campaign.

12. French vigilante says NaMo app shares its data with third-party illegally: Meanwhile, the Narendra Modi government is now facing the ire of privacy vigilantes for illegally sharing data from the "official app of the Prime Minister of India" with a third party company in the US. A French vigilante hacker in a series of tweets alleged that the personal data including email IDs, photos, gender and names of the users of Modi's mobile app were being sent to a third party domain without their consent.

"When you create a profile in the official @narendramodi #Android app, all your device info (OS, network type, Carrier …) and personal data (email, photo, gender, name, …) are sent without your consent to a third-party domain called http://in.wzrkt.com," the privacy vigilante who goes by the name Elliot Alderson tweeted on March 23. Alderson claimed that this domain belongs to a US-based company called CleverTap, a mobile marketing solution provider with offices in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

In an undercover report last week, Cambridge Analytica executives had been caught boasting that they, along with parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories, had worked in more than 200 elections around the world, including India, Nigeria, Kenya, the Czech Republic and Argentina.

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