A few weeks ago, Cambridge Analytica was being promoted in political circles as the secret weapon of a party desperate to defame Narendra Modi and reclaim what it sees as its rightful inheritance. Today, Cambridge Analytica’s alleged sharp practices have directly contributed to Facebook losing and its founder Mark Zuckerberg apologizing for the data theft.
The real story is not that Analytica was contracted by Donald Trump for his successful presidential campaign of 2016. Instead it is about whether or not the political consultancy firm illegally mined confidential data of any social media to benefit any political party.
It is important to understand why Cambridge Analytica’s approach is appealing to parties. Previously, all political parties were focusing in wooing voters on either reason or emotion, or blend of both, backed by fascinating advertising and targeted attacks on opposite parties.
Cambridge Analytica has opened spectacular political possibilities. Using the same data that marketing companies have mined to understand consumer behavior and target customers, it has tried to divert the political focus away from the big message to a multitude of personalized messages.
The issue of data protection, which first came into prominence during the Aadhaar debate, is obviously one that needs immediate attention. However, it is the threatening political consequences of unchecked data mining of personal information that warrants equal attention.