As the Congress and the BJP traded charges over Cambridge Analytica, here's a quick primer on the controversy
1. Digital marketing agencies procure personal data from various social media sites such as Facebook. Data mining is an accepted tool, sometimes data is bought, on the other occasions it is procured by illegal means.
2. The data is analysed to prepare valuable information about a person's tastes, relationships, sexual and political inclinations etc. These are culled together to profile and target individuals that are vulnerable to influence during elections.
3. Once the political inclinations of voters are analysed, CA offers to campaign/work for political parties. Voter concerns are collected through telephone, digital and physical polls.
4. Data science and predictive analytics are then used to forecast voter behaviour. From their voting history to the car they drive, behaviours are correlated with voting decisions.
5. Digital marketing is then used to influence voters. Using advertising, including social media, search engine advertising and YouTube, voters are influenced. For example, if one of the concerns among voters is healthcare, the voters are directed to websites to explain a political parties position on the subject.
Cambridge Analytica (CA) is a US affiliate of the SCL Group, a British company which uses data mining and analysis for influencing voter behaviours. Launched in the US in 2013, CA claims it has worked on some 44 elections in the US, including Donald Trump's campaign for President. The company also influenced the Brexit vote in the UK.
The data consultancy firm claims to be "the global leader in data-driven campaigning with over 25 years of experience, supporting more than 100 campaigns across five continents". Its website says that apart from the US, it claims it has run political campaigns for clients in Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts and Nevis, South Africa, Kenya, Malaysia, Indonesia, Italy, Colombia and India.