Facebook India Policy Head Questioned By Parliament Panel For 2 Hours

Sources say Ankhi Das and Ajit Mohan appeared before the panel and were both grilled on data protection.

New Delhi:

Facebook executive Ankhi Das, whose name came up in a recent controversy over alleged bias by the social networking giant in dealing with hate speeches, was questioned for two hours by a parliamentary panel today.

Sources say Ankhi Das, Facebook’s policy head, was questioned on data protection.

Facebook was told that it cannot use the personal data of citizens for “inferential” purposes in advertising or business or elections. MPs across parties reportedly asked specific questions on what percentage of Facebook’s revenue is spent on safeguards for data protection.

Sources said Facebook, which has more than 300 million users in India (its biggest market), was asked how much revenue it generates and how much tax it pays.

The joint parliamentary committee has called Facebook, Twitter and Amazon to discuss data protection and privacy as it looks into the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 following concerns raised by opposition parties.

Twitter and Amazon are to appear before the committee on October 28. Amazon wrote to the committee today saying it would not attend the hearing as “its experts are overseas” and cannot travel because of Covid. Amazon’s refusal amounts to “breach of privilege”, parliament sources told NDTV, adding that coercive action would be initiated if the company’s officials failed to show up.

While introducing the draft bill on data protection in parliament last year, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said it empowers the government to ask companies like Facebook, Google and others for anonymous personal and non-personal data.

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The opposition Congress had flagged worries on the misuse of data in some cases, especially where national security is involved.

A section of legal experts say the proposed law could give the government unaccounted access to the personal data of users.

Ankhi Das had faced criticism after a US news report in August alleged that she had resisted applying hate-speech rules to a politician from the ruling BJP. When a panel of MPs summoned Facebook last month to explain the allegations, it was not Ankhi Das but the company’s business head Ajit Mohan who appeared and fielded questions.



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