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Cambridge Analytica calls Chris Wylie's statements 'speculation' after whistleblower names Congress as a client

Chris Wylie, who used to work with Cambridge Analytica, offered to produce documents related to the firm's operations in India if the lawmakers were interested to look into them.

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | March 28, 2018 | Updated 18:46 IST
Cambridge Analytica calls Chris Wylie's statements 'speculation' after whistleblower names Congress as a client
Christopher Wylie, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie has disclosed that Congress might have taken the services of Cambridge Analytica during elections, at least regionally. His statement came during his testimony before a British parliamentary committee that is probing fake news. Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based data mining firm, is under fire for allegedly using illegally Facebook users' data to sway elections, including the 2016 US presidential elections which Donald Trump won.

Wylie, who used to work with Cambridge Analytica, offered to produce documents related to the firm's operations in India if the lawmakers were interested to look into them. He was answering a question from Labour MP Paul Farrelly about Cambridge Analytica's role in the biggest democracy which observes 'lots and lots of elections'.

"I believe their client was Congress. But I know that they have done all kinds of projects, both regional... I don't remember a national project but I know regionally. I mean, India is so big that one state can be as big as Britain. But they do have offices there, they do have staff there. I believe I have some documentation on India which I can also provide the committee if that's something that interests you."

Hours after Christopher Wylie's testimony, Cambridge Analytica in a statement said that Chris Wylie has misrepresented himself and the company to the committee. "Chris Wylie was a part-time contractor who left Cambridge Analytica in July 2014 and has no direct knowledge of the company's work or practices since that date," CA said.

In his testament, Wylie stated that he began at Cambridge Analytica because his predecessor Dan Muresan was found dead in a hotel room in Kenya. He added that he was not aware of the fate of Muresan who he also said had worked in India for Cambridge Analytica before his demise.

Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a data protection specialist who took part in the investigations, told the committee that Muresan was being paid by an Indian billionaire to make sure that Congress lost. He suggested that Romanian, Kenyan and Indian journalists should collaborate to piece together the events.

"According to reports from India, apparently he was really paid for by an Indian billionaire who actually wanted the Congress to lose. So he was pretending to work for one party but really... paid underhand by others," Dehaye said.

Soon after the revelation, the Bharatiya Janata Party opened fire against Congress, demanding an apology "for data theft and trying to manipulate voters." BJP leader and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted that Congress president Rahul Gandhi should apologise for trying to "subvert India's election process" by employing the services of Cambridge Analytica.

Prasad tweeted, "Rahul Gandhi needs to apologise to the nation for trying to subvert India's election process using the Brahmastra of Cambridge Analytica. The nation demands an answer!"

"Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie has accepted before British Parliamentary committee that Cambridge Analytica worked for the Congress Party. This vindicates what we have been saying from day one. Rahul Gandhi has been trying to divert attention all this while," his other tweet read.

Meanwhile, Congress refuted that it had tried to sway elections with the help of Cambridge Analytica. Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala referred to statements in the parts of the deposition before the House of Commons which talked about how an Indian businessman was paying Cambridge Analytica to defeat Congress.

The BJP and Congress had swapped allegations last week, each blaming the other for taking help from Cambridge Analytica to influence elections.

Meanwhile, a British lawmaker announced before the testimony that Facebook's Chief Product Officer Chris Cox will appear before the committee to present what the social media firm has to say about the data breach on its platform. He further mentioned that the committee would like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before the panel, either in person or via video link.

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