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House panel on personal data Bill seeks revenue model info from Twitter, Amazon, raises geo-tagging error

While Twitter representatives said it respects sensitivities of India, the panel maintained it was not a question of just sensitivities but about India’s sovereignty and integrity.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | Updated: October 29, 2020 8:49:59 am
twitter Ladakh in china error, twitter apology, twitter apology in writing for Ladakh in china error, indian express "They have apologised for hurting Indian sentiments and have sworn to correct the error by November 30, 2020," Meenakshi Lekhi said. (File)

The joint parliamentary committee on Personal Data Protection Bill on Wednesday asked Twitter and Amazon to furnish their balance sheets so that it can understand their revenue and business model and their earnings and tax payments in India. The panel also pulled up Twitter for showing Jammu and Kashmir as part of China.

It is learnt that Twitter representatives tendered an apology but the panel maintained that an oral apology was not enough and sought a written apology with an affidavit.

While Twitter representatives said it respects sensitivities of India, the panel maintained it was not a question of just sensitivities but about India’s sovereignty and integrity.

Panel chairman Meenakshi Lekhi said explanations provided by the Twitter representatives were inadequate, according to PTI. The PTI quoted Lekhi as saying that showing Ladakh as part of China amounts to criminal offence which attracts imprisonment of seven years.

Those who appeared on behalf of Twitter India included its senior manager public policy Shagufta Kamran. Twitter had last week responded to the controversy over the geo-tagging issue, saying it was a mistake which was swiftly resolved.

Also Read | Parliament panel to move against Amazon if it doesn’t appear on Oct 28: Lekhi

To a query on “targeting” for elections, it is learnt that Twitter officials said the site has banned political advertising since last year.

Twitter officials were also asked to explain its response mechanism for hate speeches and corrective mechanisms in place for breaches like the one which showed J&K as part of China. Regarding provisions of the Bill, it is learnt that Twitter officials argued that overextension of the consent clause can affect expansion of India’s digital drive,

The Amazon representatives, it is learnt, expressed reservations to cross-border restrictions on flow of data and localisation of data. Amazon was represented by its Vice President (Public Policy) Chetan Krishnaswamy and Vice President (legal) Rakesh Bakshi.

Also Read | Facebook gets 2 weeks to reply to House panel, Amazon to skip hearing

The Amazon representatives, it is learnt, told the panel that it doesn’t take the revenues earned in India out of the country. The members asked both firms why they can’t store data generated in the country in India.

The panel issued a notice Wednesday, calling representatives of telecom operators Reliance Jio and Airtel and cab aggregators Ola and Uber to depose before it on the issue of data security.

According to the notice, representatives of Reliance Jio Infocomm and Jio Platforms have been called to depose November 4. Representatives of Ola and Uber have been called the next day. Representatives of Airtel and Truecaller are scheduled to depose separately on November 6. —With PTI inputs

Not about an individual: Congress

The Congress, which had written to Facebook raising questions on the neutrality of its India team, argued the issue will not be resolved by changing one individual. “Facebook must demonstrate its neutrality through a thorough revamp of its institutional processes and standing operating procedures, so as to ensure fool proof checks and balances…” Congress general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal said. —ENS

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