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Amazon refuses, Facebook's Ankhi Das appears before Parliamentary panel on data privacy


NEW DELHI: In a surprise move, Amazon has refused to appear before a joint committee of the Parliament next week, that is looking into the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 which empowers the government to ask companies for both anonymous personal and non-personal data. The e-retailer giant is scheduled to appear before the committee on October 28.

This has irked the committee members including its Chairperson and BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi. Sources suggest that the committee which has 20 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha, is of the unanimous opinion that if Amazon representatives indeed fail to show up on the 28th, “appropriate actions” can be initiated against the US business giant. However, there is no clarity so far, as far as the nature of “appropriate actions” is concerned.

Speaking to IANS, Lekhi said, “Amazon has written to us and said they don’t have anyone qualified enough right now to attend. However, the committee has taken a very serious view of it and unanimously decided to resend a notice making it abundantly clear that if they fail to show up, coercive actions may follow.”

Apart from Amazon, companies like Twitter and Facebook were also summoned. In fact, Facebook India’s controversial public policy head Ankhi Das, who was recently alleged to have ignored hate speech on its platform, appeared before the panel on Friday. Sources suggest, Facebook representatives gave a detailed presentation. Sources add, it went on for 2 hours.

Last month, amid severe criticism of Facebook and the Union government over the alleged collusion of Das and the BJP, Union Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote a hard hitting letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, blaming the Facebook India management of alleged bias against people supporting the right-of-centre ideology.

Meanwhile, Twitter too has been summoned next week on 28th, the same day Amazon is also scheduled to appear before the panel. Earlier today, Lekhi said that the current ongoing depositions are because “Social media giants are in the same boat & possess data”.

The summons to Twitter assume significance as these come close on the Centre’s letter to the microblogging site’s chief Jack Dorsey.

Taking strong exception to the “misrepresentation” of India’s map, the government wrote a stern letter to the Twitter CEO, saying that any attempt by the platform to disrespect the sovereignty and integrity of India, which is also reflected by the maps, was totally unacceptable.

Google and Paytm too have been asked to appear before the committee on October 29.





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