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Facebook's Ankhi Das questioned by Parliament panel, Amazon team refuses to appear

Reports say that Facebook's India policy head Ankhi Das, accused of favouring some BJP politicians on the social media site, appeared before a Parliament panel.

twitter-logoIndia Today Tech | October 23, 2020 | Updated 20:29 IST

Highlights

  • Facebook’s policy head Ankhi Das appeared before a Parliament panel.
  • Amazon team has also been called before the panel but it is not appearing.
  • The panel is exploring views and topics related to the Data Protection Bill.

Facebook's India policy head Ankhi Das on Friday appeared before a Parliament panel on the issue of data security. A few other Facebook representatives accompanied her. The Facebook India representatives were asked some tough and searching questions by the members of the panel, sources said.

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

The India policy head of Facebook appeared before the panel weeks after a report in the Wall Street Journal alleged that she stopped the content moderation team at Facebook from taking action against some BJP leaders for hate speech.

Although, it is understood that the appearance of Ankhi Das in front of the panel on Friday was not related to that report. Instead, it was about data security.

"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. That is why we deeply appreciate to be a part of this discussion and will continue to work alongside governments and regulators to find the right solutions which not only protect users' privacy but are also interoperable with other major global privacy regulations," said a Facebook spokesperson.

The parliamentary panel has also summoned officials of micro-blogging site Twitter for a hearing on October 28, and Google and Paytm on October 29.

Meanwhile, sources say E-commerce giant Amazon has refused to appear before the Joint Committee of Parliament on the Data Protection Bill on October 28. According to the panel chairperson and BJP MP, Meenakshi Lekhi, this amounts to a breach of privilege.

Lekhi said that "The panel is unanimous in its opinion that coercive action can be suggested to the government against the e-commerce company."

"Amazon has refused to appear before the panel on October 28 and if no one on behalf of the e-commerce company appears before the panel it amounts to breach of privilege," she said.

But Amazon said it is a case of misunderstanding. "We have the utmost respect and regard for the important work being done by the JPC on the PDP Bill and have already offered our written submissions for consideration of this august Committee. We will continue to engage in any way the JPC considers fit. The inability of our experts to travel from overseas due to travel restriction and depose before the JPC during the ongoing pandemic may have been mis-construed and led to a misunderstanding and we will work with the JPC to set the record straight," said an Amazon spokesperson.

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