Parliament committee irked by Amazon’s refusal to appear before it

AM Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on October 23, 2020

The Joint Committee of Parliament on the Data Protection Bill is taking a serious view of Amazon’s refusal to appear before it. It unanimously decided to send a show-cause notice to Amazon citing Parliament procedures, the importance of the committee and the privilege issues involved. The IT and Commerce Ministries and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla will also be informed of the development.

The panel had asked Amazon to appear before it on October 28. “They declined. That is very strange,” a senior member of the panel said. “It is not only a privilege thing. If, tomorrow, a company says it will not face a Parliamentary committee then Parliament will instruct the government to tighten (its leash on) that company. Parliament has the sovereign power.” Another member said the committee felt that Amazon should be pulled up. “They cannot give an answer like this. They could have sought time. The executive thought that it is a casual request which can be turned down,” he said.

Facebook team turns up

Meanwhile, a Facebook delegation, led by its policy head Ankhi Das, appeared before the panel. Saying only children below 13 need parental consent to use Facebook in Europe and America, the delegation asked that the same age limit be followed in India, too. The Data Protection Bill considers persons below 18 as children.

The delegation further said non-personal data should be left out of the Bill. It added that cross-border data flow is crucial; it will lead to the growth of digital exports and India will benefit.

The delegation did not reply to a question on corporate tax paid by Facebook in India, excluding the GST.

“Very politely she (Das) said she was not prepared for this question and she will get back. On a question on the revenue of Facebook from advertisements, too, they said they will collect it and share it. We have given them two-week,” the member added.

The members asked about different rates in Facebook for the same advertisement.

“They tried to skip it. Das’ colleague, Bhairav Acharya, said advertisements published in different newspapers are charged different rates. But members said Facebook is not a newspaper and it is a medium and it has nothing to do with circulation,” the member said.

Published on October 23, 2020

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