The London-based company might have violated the sensitive data of more than 50 million Facebook users in an attempt to anticipate and influence voters’ choice. SCL India, which is part of the same parent company, has reported that it has both of India’s main parties as clients. The affair has touched Malaysia. Seven of the top ten countries for social media penetration are in Asia.
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Whilst in the West the controversy over the revelations concerning Cambridge Analytica is growing, political parties across Asia are openly disavowing any link between their election success and the London-based analysis group, which has been accused of one of the largest data violations in history.
Last week, an investigation by two British newspapers, The Guardian and The Observer, and the New York Times in the United States, brought to light the alleged involvement of Cambridge Analytica in operations aimed at influencing the 2016 US elections and the Brexit referendum.
Through an application called ‘thisisyourdigitallife’, the company allegedly violated the personal data of more than 50 million Facebook users in an attempt to anticipate and influence their electoral choices through personalised ads.
The outcry caused by the controversy has also affected Asian politics. In India, the authorities yesterday ordered the closure of the local Cambridge Analytica website.
SCL India, a joint venture between London-based SCL group (Cambridge Analytica’s parent company) and Ovleno Business Intelligence, says that both of India’s main political parties are among its clients. However, both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress party have denied using its services.
Yesterday, India’s Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who also holds the Electronics and Information Technology portfolio, said that there were "numerous reports" about Congress involvement with Cambridge Analytica operations. Prasad invited Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi to "explain" the company’s role in his social media outreach.
Congress hit back saying that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who used the firm, a claim apparently backed by SCL India vice president Himanshu Sharma, who says on his publicly available LinkedIn profile that the company has "successfully managed four election campaigns for the BJP" and, among them, names the 2014 general election which swept Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power.
The controversy has also touched Malaysian politics. Cambridge Analytica states on its website that it has supported Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in Kedah province resulting in the BN-led coalition wresting Kedah back from then opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat in 2013.
Two days ago, the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak ruled out the possibility that the BN, the Prime Minister's office or any body in his administration had ever contracted the analysis company.
Instead, the Prime Minister’s Office said that all services were provided personally to former BN leader turned opposition politician Mukhriz Mahathir.
Political analysts say they are worried about the "very likely" use of voter behaviour analysis services in the next general election in Thailand, where there is still no law to protect personal internet data.
Experts believe that the activities of companies like Cambridge Analytica in Asia may not be ethical, but they are also unlikely to break any law.
In many countries there are no restrictions on the use of data by politicians and data mining victims may find it hard to get compensation.
The growth of social media in Asia has been so rapid that regulators have had difficulty in keeping up.
According to Statista, an online statistics, market research and business intelligence portal, seven of the top ten countries with the highest penetration rates of social media are in Asia, namely South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.