One cannot bar the use of modern technology over fear of its misuse, Chief Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat said on Tuesday to a query on harvesting of voter data by political parties and candidates’ apps.
Rawat also urged information technology professionals in Bengaluru — India’s IT hub — to help prevent any “malicious, divisive or targeted social media campaigns connected with any harvesting of data, etc”.
“When technology evolves and such issues (harvesting of voters’ data by political parties) come out, we try to find solutions to check the misuse, while at the same time harnessing its utility,” Rawat said.
He said it was a “global issue” and the Election Commission did not need to probe these issues. He clarified that Facebook would continue to be the Election Commission’s social media partner.
“We don’t stop the use of modern technology because of a few aberrations. There have been bank frauds, but did we stop the use of net banking, etc? No, we did not. Social media is now a reality and a lot of people are involved in it and get information through it.
“With all precautions at our command to prevent any adverse effect on our elections, electorate or their judgement, we have to use it… Facebook remains our partner and we are operating our FB page,” Rawat said.
A huge controversy broke out last week when it was found that a British data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, had harvested data of over 50 million Facebook users to influence elections in favour of its clients across the globe, including the 2016 US presidential elections.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi alleged on Sunday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s app was collecting and harvesting voters’ data and sharing it with the US firms. The Bharatiya Janata Party hit back with its charges vis-a-vis Congress’ “With INC” app.
The CEC also requested Karnataka’s IT professionals to help the EC in conducting fair and impartial elections, saying it would be a great service to the nation.
“I would like to request through the media to IT professionals of Karnataka, which is known for its IT industry, to do whatever is within their reach to safeguard and ensure that the state polls are totally immune to any adverse effects of malicious, divisive and targeted social media campaigns connected with any harvesting of data, etc,” the CEC said.
“If they can take care of the issue, it will be a great service to strengthen democracy in India — not just in India, but globally,” he said.