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What about Cambridge Analytica in India?



On Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group’s activities and relationship with political parties in India.


So, Cambridge Analytica in India. Let’s see what we have here...

Cambridge Analytica, owned by SCL Group (earlier known as Strategic Communication Laboratories), is a British behavioral research and strategic communication company.

Thanks to the recent Channel 4 News exposé on Cambridge Analytica, we now know the extent to which they can influence elections.


Cambridge Analytica: Undercover secrets of Trump's data firm. (YouTube/Channel 4 News)

Cambridge Analytica is accused of harvesting Facebook data of over 50 million users without permission and using it to target voters. This New York Times story has the details.

In India, the company has worked both with the Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party as per reports.

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Two stories in The Wire India and in Economic Times show that Cambridge Analytica operates in the country through a company called Ovleno Business Intelligence.

A case study on the Cambridge Analytica website shows how it conducted in-depth electorate analysis for the Bihar Assembly Election in 2010.



Cambridge Analytica website.

The idea was to find out more about swing voters. Next step: organise the party base at the village level. Cambridge Analytica says that over 90% of the seats targeted were won in the 2010 Bihar election. In that election, BJP won 91 seats. The centre-left party Janata Dal (JDU) won 115 seats.

Now, Ovleno Business Intelligence, which claimed on its website that it has worked for BJP, JDU and Congress is owned by Amrish Kumar Tyagi (son of JDU’s KC Tyagi) and Sharad Tyagi.

If you dig a little deeper, you find that Strategic Communication Laboratories Pvt Ltd (SCL) has a subsidiary in India. Amrish Tyagi, Avneesh Kumar Rai, Alexander James Ashburner Nix and Alexander Waddington Oakes are directors of the company.

Alexander Nix was suspended from Cambridge Analytica on 20 March 2018 after the Channel 4 News sting implicated them of wrongdoing to win elections.

Nigel John Oake is the founder and CEO of SCL Group.

Amrish Tyagi also owns Span House Customer Services Pvt Limited.

Avneesh Kumar Rai owns a bunch of businesses, all interestingly named. One is Stealth Analytics & Business Solutions, another is De Bunk Media Pvt Ltd, a third company is called Debunk Strategies Pvt Ltd.

As Pratik Sinha, former software engineer and co-founder of fact-checking website AltNews, pointed out in a tweet, Himanshu Sharma of Ovleno has worked for the BJP’s Mission 272+ campaign, mostly managing its call center and database of BJP supporters. This campaign brought Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power.



Sharma also claims to have profiled each and every volunteer and supporter who had extended their support to get involved in Mission 272+. So, if you gave a missed call on that toll-free number, chances are that political parties now have a fairly detailed profile of yours handy.

Ovleno’s website is now down. A Whois lookup, however, shows it is registered to Amrish Tyagi. A screenshot of their homepage from Wayback Machine tells us who their clients are.



Ovleno Business Intelligence website.

It is not a tiny crew that operates on small projects: SCL India claims on its website that it has permanent offices in ten states across the country and 30 branch offices, 300 permanent employees and over 1,400 consulting staff.



Ovleno Business Intelligence website.

They offer softwares for political intelligence, Android Apps for organisation and election management, access to behavioral change communications methodology in India, caste research, voter demographic data collection and analysis, behavioral polling and other services.🔷


Screen capture of the OBI website:





Embed from Getty Images


(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread by Jayadevan PK, co-founder of FactorDaily, and turned into the above article with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)


(Cover: Pixabay/PMP.)


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