Amazon ‘Refuses’ to Appear Before Parl Panel; Company Clarifies
Officials of companies including FB and Amazon have been asked to appear before the panel regarding data protection.
E-commerce giant Amazon has refused to appear before the Joint Committee of Parliament to discuss the Data Protection Bill on 28 October, BJP MP and panel chief Meenakshi Lekhi told news agency PTI on Friday, 23 October.
Representatives of companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, PayTM and Google, have been summoned to appear before the panel chaired by Lekhi, regarding data protection and privacy issues.
While Facebook's public policy head, Ankhi Das, is learnt to have appeared before the joint panel on the issue of data security on Friday, 23 October, Google and Paytm have been summoned to appear on 29 October, PTI reported. Twitter officials are scheduled to appear before the panel on 28 October.
‘Coercive Action May Initiated Against Amazon’
Sources cited by ANI said on Friday that the committee members were "aghast" at Amazon's letter expressing inability to appear on 28 October. "The joint committee has taken it very seriously and decided that if they do not appear on the 28th, then coercive action may be initiated against Amazon," the sources were quoted as saying.
“Amazon has refused to appear before the panel on 28 October and if no one on behalf of the e-commerce company appears before the panel, it amounts to breach of privilege.”Meenakshi Lekhi, BJP MP, as quoted by PTI
The committee is unanimous in its opinion that coercive action can be suggested to the government against Amazon, Lekhi added.
‘Will Set the Record Straight’
Meanwhile, according to NDTV, Amazon had pointed out that their "subject matter experts are overseas" and cited risks of travel as the reasons for non-appearance.
In a statement late on Friday, the e-commerce giant said, "The inability of our experts to travel from overseas due to travel restriction and depose before the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) during the ongoing pandemic may have been misconstrued and led to a misunderstanding. We will work with the JPC to set the record straight."
"We have the utmost respect and regard for the important work being done by the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on the PDP (Personal Data Protection) Bill and have already offered written submissions for consideration of this august committee. We will continue to engage in any way the JPC considers fit," it added.
Ankhi Das Questioned
Meanwhile, Facebook's public policy head Ankhi Das, who recently came under the scanner for allegedly siding with the BJP, was among the social media company’s officials who were questioned for around two hours by the panel on Friday, NDTV further reported.
"Facebook made a detailed presentation to the joint committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill. Facebook representation was made by two officials who attended the meeting today. They informed the committee of their data protection policy," sources cited by ANI said.
PTI’s sources, meanwhile, said the joint panel quizzed Facebook on the quantum of its revenue, profit and tax payouts in India, and the funds spent on data safety.
The committee has reportedly given Facebook India two weeks to give written replies to the questions asked by its members.
Row Over Data Protection
After the draft Bill, introduced in Parliament last year, said that it empowers the government to ask companies – Facebook, Google and others – for anonymised personal and non-personal data, Opposition party Congress had raised concerns about privacy and the misuse of the data.
Even legal experts had raised concerns about giving the government unaccounted access to personal data.
Following this, the matter was referred to the Joint Committee of Parliament headed by Meenakshi Lekhi.
"Whosoever is required, an individual or an entity, will be asked to depose before the panel on the issue of protection of data and its privacy, and their respective social media platforms will be thoroughly examined by the panel," PTI quoted Meenakshi Lekhi as saying.
(With inputs from NDTV, The Indian Express, PTI and ANI.)
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