Ravi Shankar Prasad questions Cong links with Cambridge Analytica, warns FB


"What is the role of Cambridge Analytica in social media profile of Rahul Gandhi?" he questioned.

"But abuse of social media that too by using foreign firms will not be acceptable".

As reported in Guardian Observer and New York Times, Facebook profiles of almost 5 crore people were illegally used by the political firm and it helped to create models and algorithms to successfully target swing voters with false news and political advertisements. Ravi Shankar Prasad sent out a warning to social media giant Facebook that strict action would be taken if the company is found to have compromised the data privacy of Indians.

Surjewala added, "Indian National Congress or the Congress President has never used or never hired the services of a company called Cambridge Analytica".

Asked if the government would initiate a probe on data use by Facebook, Prasad said that India had a regulator in the form of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), and in case of any specific complaints, the same would be taken under a structured investigation.

Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm with ties to United States President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign, suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, on Tuesday, amid a furore over the access it gained to private information of more than 50 million Facebook users.

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"Mr Mark Zuckerberg you better note the observation of the IT Minister of India. We have got stringent powers in the IT Act, including summoning you in India", he said.

He alleged that Cambridge Analytica, the agency roped in by Congress to run their 2019 campaign and termed as their "Brahmastra" in certain section of media, is accused of using bribes, sex workers to entrap politicians and stealing data from Facebook.

India's information technology minister on Wednesday warned against any abuse of social media in elections, following reports that a British consultancy improperly accessed information on millions of Facebook users to target USA voters.

"This is not just a question of Congress Party's association with a rogue data analysis firm but it is a question of free and fair elections in India and democratic values of our country", Mr Prasad told reporters.

The Congress has denied the allegation.

"News about Congress engaged/engaging with Cambridge Analytica is absolutely false, " the head of the social media unit of the Congress Divya Spandana said. "But any attempt, covert or overt, by social media, including Facebook, of trying to influence India's electoral process through undesirable means will neither be appreciated nor be tolerated", Prasad said. "In this report on Cambridge Analytica there is an ostensible claim by them or the jurno's (sic) that they have worked on Indian elections/campaigns".