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23 Oct, 2020 16:40

India threatens ‘coercive action’ against Amazon for refusing to appear before govt panel on data protection

India threatens ‘coercive action’ against Amazon for refusing to appear before govt panel on data protection

Lawmakers in India have called for e-commerce giant Amazon to face repercussions after it allegedly refused to testify before a panel on a data protection bill.

Meenakshi Lekhi, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the chairperson of the parliamentary committee reviewing the country’s 2019 Personal Data Protection Bill, has threatened to punish Amazon for failing to appear before the panel.

The committee has been speaking to tech companies operating in India in a bid to address any possible concerns arising from the legislation orchestrated by Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. The bill, tabled in Parliament last year, seeks to give the government the power to ask companies for anonymous personal and non-personal data.

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Lekhi went on to say that, considering “Amazon is doing huge business in India”, the panel had unanimously decided “coercive action” should be taken to hold the company accountable if it didn’t appear before the committee. She did not specify what that action could be, however. 

Amazon defended its behavior in a statement, blaming coronavirus restrictions on its absence: “The inability of our experts to travel from overseas due to travel restrictions and depose before the JPC [joint parliamentary committee] during the ongoing pandemic may have been misconstrued and led to a misunderstanding.”

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On Friday, social media giant Facebook’s representatives were questioned by the committee members, local media reported. The social networking platform Twitter is set to appear in front of the panel on October 28, while Google and Indian e-commerce payment system Paytm are due to face questions on October 29.

The Indian government has been exploring legislation that could regulate the data collected by social media and e-commerce companies. However, figures in the industry have warned that any such laws could discourage future investment from foreign tech companies.

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