Facebook data breach' triggers Congress-BJP feud

"The Congress must explain if it has engaged in data trade with Cambridge Analytica," the minister said.

The BJP and the Congress on Wednesday accused each other of using the services of embattled data consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica (CA) that along with Facebook is at the centre of a global row over the alleged unauthorized use of personal data from the social media giant.

As the firestorm over the issue hit India, the government warned Facebook, which is being probed by US and British lawmakers over a potential breach of user confidentiality, of stringent action if any attempt was made to influence the country’s electoral process through "undesirable means". 

However, the company’s India partner Oveleno Business Intelligence (OBI) lists the BJP, the Congress and the JD-U as its clients. The India partner is by AmrishTyagi, son of senior JD-U leader K.C. Tyagi. In media interviews, the junior Tyagi admitted that the Youth Congress in Jharkhand, the BJP and the JD-U had used its services to conduct research.

BJP leader and Union Law and IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad cited media reports to allege that the Congress was using the services of the London-based political data analytics firm for the next LokSabha election and boost its president Rahul Gandhi’s social media profile and its outreach.

"The Congress must explain if it has engaged in data trade with Cambridge Analytica," the minister said.

He said the number of Gandhi’s followers on Twitter had risen recently and wondered if the Congress had used the services of the Cambridge Analytica for this "fake popularity".

"Will the Congress now depend on data manipulation and theft to woo voters," Prasad asked.

"These days, there is a lot of news about CA and how it has been involved in data theft, psychometric analysis, data manipulation and subversion of democratic processes. Can the Congress deny that?" he asked. The Congress returned the fire and accused the BJP of having availed the firm’s services in 2010.