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Personal Data Protection Bill: Tough questions for tech giants

24 October, 2020 | 2 min read

The joint parliamentary committee, or JPC (that is, consisting of members of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) set up on the issue of protection of data and its privacy—working towards finetuning the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019—has issued summons to the big four tech giants.

While Facebook appeared before the panel on Friday, October 23, Twitter has been summoned on October 28, and Google and Paytm on October 29.

Facebook’s public policy head for South and Central Asia, Ankhi Das appeared before the panel on the issue of data security on Friday.

She was asked some tough and searching questions by the members of the panel, according to sources speaking to media outlets. A member suggested that the social media giant should not draw inferences from the data of its users for commercial benefits of its advertisers.

Speaking to the PTI, panel chairperson, BJP MP from the Lok Sabha, Meenakshi Lekhi issued an important clarification: “Whosoever is required, whether 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. It would be inappropriate and unfair to look at the calling of social media platforms from a political prism.”

She said that Amazon has refused to appear before the committee, and for this breach of privilege, “coercive action” might be taken by the government against it.

On September 1, Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, accusing the social media platform’s employees of supporting people from a political predisposition that lost successive elections, and of “abusing” the prime minister and senior cabinet ministers.

A day later, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, chaired by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, also summoned Facebook, this time on the alleged misuse of the company’s hate speech rules.

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