New Delhi: A parliamentary joint committee which is looking into issues of data protection and privacy by social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google and others has decided that it will move a breach of privilege motion against US-based e-commerce website Amazon if a representative does not appear before the panel on October 28.

The joint committee is led by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi and has 20 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha. 

“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,” she said, adding, “The panel is unanimous in its opinion that coercive action can be suggested to the government against the e-commerce company”.

While, Facebook and Twitter were also reportedly asked to depose before the parliamentary panel which is trying to seek “oral evidence” on the issues of data protection and privacy. Twitter too is said to have been asked to appear before the panel next week. Also, Google and Paytm representatives have been asked to appear on October 29. 

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Meanwhile, Amazon’s public policy official in response to the parliamentary committee has expressed the company’s inability to appear before the panel as its subject experts (on data protection) are based overseas and cannot travel because of COVID-19.

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

The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 11, 2019. The bill seeks to provide for protection of personal data of individuals and establishes a Data Protection Authority for the same.

The Personal Data Protection Bill was later referred to a joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament. The proposed law seeks bar on storing and processing of personal data by entities without the explicit consent of an individual.

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