Parliament panel issues summons to Google, Paytm on data privacy

  •  October 24,2020 By IndianTelevision Team

MUMBAI: Google and Paytm have been directed to appear before a joint parliamentary committee on 29 October on the issue of data protection and privacy. Social media platforms Facebook and Twitter have also been called in to provide oral evidence. Meanwhile, e-commerce giant Amazon has refused to appear in front of the panel.

BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, who heads the committee, stated, “Amazon has refused to appear before the joint committee of Parliament on the Data Protection Bill on 28 October and this amounts to breach of privilege."

The panel has decided to send a privilege notice if representatives of Amazon do not turn up. “Coercive action can be suggested to the government against the e-commerce company,” she added.

The summons to Facebook and Twitter is strictly pertaining to the issue of citizen’s personal data protection. The notice to Twitter assumes 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.

On the other hand, social media giant Facebook has been interrogated by the parliament panel about the quantum of their revenue, profit and tax payouts in India and asked what portion of their earnings were being used for data security in the country.

Commenting on the questions raised by the panel, Facebook spokesperson said, “We deeply appreciate the opportunity to discuss data regulation issues with the hon’ble members of Joint Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill. We believe that India’s data protection law has the potential to propel the country’s digital economy and global digital trade, and we wholeheartedly support this effort.”

Facebook India’s policy head Ankhi Das was examined for two hours by the panel members of the joint committee and has been asked tough and searching questions from across the political spectrum.

During the meeting, a member suggested that the social media platform should not draw inferences from the data of its users for commercial benefits of its advertisers or for electoral purposes.

Last month, amid severe criticism over the alleged collusion of Facebook India executive Ankhi Das and the BJP, minister of Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote a hard-hitting letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, blaming the social media network’s India management of alleged bias against people supporting the right-of-center ideology.

The Personal Data Protection Bill proposes to put restriction on use of personal data without explicit consent of citizens. The draft bill, approved by Cabinet in December 2019, proposes a penalty of up to Rs 15 crore and up to three-years in jail for company executives for violating privacy norms.

The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in February and has been referred to a joint parliamentary committee for examination and report.