E-commerce giant Amazon has refused to appear before a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) that is looking into the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019. Amazon’s refusal amounts to “breach of privilege of parliament”.
Media reports claimed that the e-commerce giant has said that its subject matter experts are all overseas and would not be able to travel amid the coronavirus pandemic due to the risks involved.
JPC chairperson and BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi said, “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 a breach of privilege.”
On Friday, Meenakshi Lekhi said that the panel has unanimously decided that coercive action could be suggested to the government against the e-commerce company.
Why Amazon was summoned by JPC?
While introducing the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had empowered the government to ask companies for anonymous personal and non-personal data.
Congress, as well as several experts, flagged the issue and expressed concerns that the government would be given unaccounted access to data. The matter was then referred to a joint parliamentary committee headed by Meenakshi Lekhi.
Following concerns expressed by Congress, the committee summoned all stakeholders including Facebook, Twitter and Google to get an overview.
Twitter would appear before the panel on October 28, and Google and Paytm on October 29.
Facebook representatives questioned by JPC
While Amazon refused to appear before the JPC, representatives of social media giant Facebook appeared before the JPC and were questioned for around two hours. Media reports suggest that Facebook representatives including Das and business head Ajit Mohan were grilled.
The joint parliamentary committee summoned Facebook policy head Ankhi Das, whose name recently cropped up in a controversy over alleged bias by the platform while dealing with hate speeches, over issues of data security.
A JPC member suggested that the social media giant should not draw inferences from data of its users for the commercial benefits of its advertisers.
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