Cambridge Analytica (CA), the data consultancy firm at the heart of a fake news investigation in the UK, has said that all its activities around the world, including in India, will be investigated and reported on. A spokesperson for the company yesterday said that while CA was focussed purely on the US market, its global arm SCL Elections handled other regions. “All the national issues and national associations are part and parcel of the independent investigation. Rest assured, India, Kenya, Nigeria, all the other countries that SCL has been working in historically, will be investigated and reported on as part of the independent investigation,” he told reporters during a press conference here today.
The press conference came soon after an academic associated with the company, Aleksandr Kogan, gave his evidence to the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee on its ongoing investigation into fake news. Kogan’s company, Global Science Research (GSR), developed a Facebook app that reportedly collected data from people who signed up to use the app as well as information from their Facebook friends, without the explicit approval of all involved. He accused CA’s now-suspended CEO Alexander Nix of “total fabrication” when it came to denying the links between Cambridge Analytica and GSR’s data.
DCMS Committee chair Damian Collins said that Nix had told the committee in February that CA never received data from Kogan’s company GSR, which did not have “much credibility any more” given his own testimony today. Last month, Christopher Wylie, a former employee of CA turned whistleblower, had told MPs during his evidence before the committee that the company had worked “extensively” in India and named the Congress as one of its clients. In a post on Twitter later, the 28-year-old also named the Janata Dal (United) as a client during the 2010 Bihar elections and revealed 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 had tweeted. His message included 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. “I don’t remember a national project but I know regionally. India’s so big that one state can be as big as Britain. But they do have offices there, they do have staff there,” he had said, offering to provide more “documentation” to the committee on CA’s India links.