Cambridge Analytica to Set Trends in IT

March 21, 2018: Facebook has shaved off US$ 30 billion market capitalization on account of the data misuse leveled against its vendor Cambridge Analytica. That may be the immediate monetary loss suffered by the IT giant. There is another loss –considerably more than the monetary value -that is its erosion in the reputation. That perhaps, may be irreparable since people join the Facebook and browse through on the presumption that the data parted by the individual is secured and protected. The recent cataclysmic developments indicate prima facie, the fact is otherwise.

There are a few things that have to be understood in the context. One, the unfortunate revelations are taking place when the debate on how Trump had masterminded the electoral victory over Hillary Clinton, who mustered the maximum popular votes, is at a high pitch and people are suspecting there was a distinct Russian role in the whole affair.

One has to clearly understand the stealthy role that was involved in rigging the election or influencing the election results. The involvement of the Facebook was not direct. It had contracted the UK based Cambridge Analytica (CA) a group of academicians for a specific work of analyzing a data base of 50 million Facebook followers in connection with a survey.

The CA was bound to delete all data made available to it by Facebook, once the survey was over or the project came to an end. A whistleblower in the CA admits that the analytics company did not delete the same and used the huge database , which included a sizeable number of profiles of American voters for sending personalized appeal soliciting support for Trump in the 2016 general elections, which had thrown a surprising result.

Now a few questions arise. Is Facebook culpable? Though it had distanced from the wrong doing by making a general statement that it had directed CA to delete the database immediately after the project was over, it is something to be closely watched how the judiciary would take the explanation given by Facebook.

Can it get absolved of the vicarious liability cast on it? Can there be traces of evidence to suggest that it is in collusion with the CA, while embarking on the project to help the Trump campaign. These are interesting and significant things that will be watched by the whole world. Importantly, the rule set by the US judiciary in the after math of this complex case will have great ramifications across the IT world.

In the meantime, the case triggered a debate on the urgent need for data protection in India. Some say India’s voting process is potentially vulnerable to similar influences like that had happened in the US. Some media has reported that CA website says that the company had worked for Indian political parties. It says that it was contracted to undertake an in-depth electorate analysis in 2010 in Bihar and goes on to say that their client achieved a landslide victory with over 90% of the total seats.

The twist in the case will have considerable impact on the proposed move of the Trump administration to go for repeal of the net neutrality and it is very seriously considering to bring that to an abrupt end. There are people who are opposing it. The recent opposition of California against not only the move to repeal the net neutrality but also on tightening of emigration rules are well-known.

At a time, when there is a debate and insinuations about the foolproof nature of the voting machines in India and several political parties have asked for replacing them with manual counting to insulate against any malpractices, the CA case can open up another can of worms. One has to see how it is going to roll out in future. As an avid neitizen, I only hope that Facebook will come out unscathed since it had played an important role in linking and making people communicate to each other or even more than that.