In the last few weeks, there have been ample discussions whether social media data can be pivotal in influencing Election mandates or not. In this regard, there were alleged controversies around involvement of century old Congress Party in utilizing Facebook data given by Cambridge Analytica, a company partly owned by the US billionaire hedge fund owner Robert Mercer. Later it was also revealed, that the use of Facebook data in shaping up political strategy dates back to early 2003.
Interestingly, the data also helped to create sharp polarization in communal lines. Ultimately the whole debate became a war of words between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress as whole used the services of Cambridge Analytica to garner positive results in regional and national level elections.
One of the ministers of the Narendra Modi government even warned of summoning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in case there is theft of data from Indians. The whole controversy reminded of the US Presidential election when Donald Trump amidst all speculations became the President and later the election was considered to be manipulated by the Russians with vested interests.
Now, the question is, whether the data available can at all be the game changer in elections or not. Many sociologists believes that the data leak is over hyped and in all probability cannot change the diktat with a definite swing towards any side.
No doubt, Facebook data is all about organized systematic filing of data concerning likes and dislikes of an individual, who the online friends are and the preferred location and other personalized references which can indicate the probable whereabouts of any person.
In other words, Facebook data at the best can help in profiling of data in grass root level and on a broader basis, it is not improbable to focus or strategise political campaigns based on such. But there is always an element of risk or dependence of personal judgement on the individual in this regard.
Hence, the data leak can never directly ensure the outcome of any election. Getting any user’s psychological profile is always an added advantage but it can never be too generalized and thus Indians do not need to be concerned with the recent uproar.
Afterall, the domain of target audiences in India is not at all clear and distinct as there are so many parameters concerned and the political parties too have their own limitations.