How Data Theft is affecting the Elections

Data Theft whether from Aadhar or Facebook has increasingly become a serious thing to worry about. With Cambridge Analytica’s involvement both in the Bihar 2010 polls, the Donald Trump campaign and the Brexit vote, it seems like the world’s population has to be worried about any election being fixed. This is therefore no longer a threat to individuals but to entire countries and governments.

Cambridge Analytica’s partner Oveleno Business Intelligence (OBI), unfortunately, is known to have put up the Bihar case study on its website, where it claims to have influenced the elections. OBI is run by Amrish Tyagi son of JDU Leader KC Tyagi. Because the proof of involvement in Bihar 2010 elections lies on the website ( www.ovleno.in ) OBI might have been forced to shut down its website. A visit to the website revealed an account suspended message.

Cambridge Analytica and Britains Leave group have boasted in the past about having worked together. The issue gains importance because Brexit has been one of the most traumatic political decisions for the UK in recent times. To know that the vote might have been fixed is likely to cause a lot of pain.

Cambridge Analytics makes an innocent claim about using big data and advanced psychographics to influence people. That in itself is a fairly innocent claim in this era of Big Data. But what was its undoing is that it took Facebook data, identified voter target groups and designed targeted messaging to spread misinformation among the people.

It only shows what an evil genius can do, something that drops right out of Stan Lee’s Marvel comics and typically the anti-heroes in Superman, Spiderman other stories. For the moment it seems like Alexander Nix the evil genius behind Cambridge Analytica has been suspended. And both Mark Zuckerberg and Sherly Sandberg seem to have issued apologies to the public.

I want to share an update on the Cambridge Analytica situation — including the steps we've already taken and our next…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Does that help?

I am not sure. After all, you can’t reverse the events of the past. Trump is in power, Britain has decided to leave the EU and the Bihar 2010 elections were won, and can’t be reversed. In face of these threats, the statement issued by IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is welcome when he said ” “But any data theft of Indians in collusion with Facebook will not be tolerated.”  India is particularly vulnerable with Facebook’s 241 million users which makes it FB’s largest market in the world in terms of users.

What this does have implication for is that election laws in countries around the world might have to change radically to prevent data theft.

In the meantime, we have to worry about how data theft can affect our individual lives. The problem is that we can’t seek a solution until after the problem has already occurred. A case in point is the report yesterday that a lady from Delhi has lost around Rs 41 lakh after her bitcoin wallet was allegedly hacked by unidentified men.

That is pretty unnerving!

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Prabhakar Mundkur has spent 40 years in advertising and worked in India, Africa and Asia. He is currently Chief Mentor with HGS Interactive a part of HGS in the Hinduja Group. He is on the advisory board of Sol 's Arc (solsarc.org ) an NGO dedicated to special education for intellectually challenged children. He is also a member of Whiteboard ( whiteboardindia.org ) which supports senior management of NGOs in financial management, PR, Communication and HR through pro bono expertise.

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