Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook remain apprehensive about India’s new data laws but Paytm is open to regulation

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Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook remain apprehensive about India’s new data laws but Paytm is open to regulation
Global technology giants Twitter, Amazon, Google and Facebook get called in by India's Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to discuss the country's new data privacy and data protection lawsUnsplash/Wikipedia Commons/Pxfuel/BI India
  • Global technology companies Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook, remain apprehensive about India’s new data laws after being questioned by India’s Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Personal Data Protection Bill this week.
  • The only indigenous company to be called for deposition for far, Paytm, told the committee that it’s open to regulation.
  • All these companies have been given one week to prepare formal responses and submit affidavits.
India’s Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has been questioning Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google, and even Paytm over concerns regarding data protection and data privacy. The JPC may also reportedly summon India’s top two telecom giants, Reliance Jio and Airtel, and cab-hailing services, Uber and Ola, next week.

While Paytm has welcomed India’s new Personal Data Protection Bill, Google, Twitter, and Amazon have shown some restraint. Google’s response may have been more positive than the others, but it does not imply its undivided support.

The consultation process is meant to increase the country’s understanding of how these companies use, store and mobilise data, according to the JPC’s chairperson Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament (MP) Meenakshi Lekhi.

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Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook remain apprehensive about India’s new data laws but Paytm is open to regulation
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Google
Google’s representatives asserted that the Personal Data Protection Bill, once enacted, would strengthen the framework around data privacy and security in India.

However, the global tech giant maintained that the move to localise data isn’t in the best interests of data protection and data privacy, according to the Hindustan Times. Google highlighted that localization of data would be at odds with open trade and modern-day data protection standards.

It submitted a 25-page report arguing its stance. However, it held no sway with the committee.

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The JPC questioned Google over its relationship with China — and the Chinese Navy in particular. It was also asked about its market control when it comes to the smartphone market since more than 90% of smartphones manufactured worldwide use Google’s Android platform as their operating system.

Considering the mountain-high revenues the company generates in India, Google was asked if it thought the effective tax rate it paid was ‘absurdly low.’

Google evaded some questions and was unable to answer others. The head of the committee, Meenakshi Lekhi, has instructed the international giant to submit a detailed affidavit in one week.

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“They themselves are the platforms, sellers, and news agencies. And Google itself has the control button to which information will come first, which will come later or which news will flash and which will be suppressed. So how it can be a neutral platform?” Lekhi told PTI after the meeting.

Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook remain apprehensive about India’s new data laws but Paytm is open to regulation
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Facebook
Facebook saw the exit of its public policy head in India, Ankhi Das, just a few days after her deposition. Das was grilled for two hours by the JPC on Monday and asked some tough and searching questions by the panel members from across the political spectrum, sources told PTI.

According to the social media giant, India’s new data protection laws can propel the country’s digital economy and global digital trade.

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“We believe that India’s data protection law has the potential to propel the country’s digital economy and global digital trade, and we wholeheartedly support this effort,” said the company’s spokesperson.

Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook remain apprehensive about India’s new data laws but Paytm is open to regulation
Amazon offices in IndiaIANS
Amazon
Amazon had earlier come under fire for declining the JPC’s invitation to appear because the company claimed it did not have anyone with the relevant expertise to address the committee’s concerns. However, yesterday, both Amazon India and Amazon Web Services showed up, according to CNBC TV-18.

The company claimed that the entire episode was a ‘misunderstanding’ due to international travel restrictions given the coronavirus pandemic.
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Amazon was questioned over its revenue model and how much tax it pays in India. And, since India is a considerable part of its revenue generation, the committee also questioned the company over how it reinvests back in the country.

The JPC has asked Amazon to submit its answers in writing in one week.

Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook remain apprehensive about India’s new data laws but Paytm is open to regulation
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Twitter
Ahead of being questioned by the JPC, the social networking giant issued an apology for showing Leh as a part of China. The committee had earlier asked Twitter to submit a public apology and submit an affidavit regarding the issue.
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“Leh being shown as a part of China can be construed as an act of treason and is punishable with unto seven years of imprisonment,” Lekhi told Hindustan Times. “The committee was unanimous in flagging the issue and expressed its stern disapproval.”

Twitter also came under fire for its practices regarding hate speech and taking down on accounts. According to PTI, Lekhi believes that Twitter may have a little too much control.

”Shadow banning, banning policy… there is no clarity about it. Such actions are very subjective... Twitter is becoming a law unto themselves, and under these circumstances, they are violating Article 19 of the Constitution about the freedom of expression,” she said.
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Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook remain apprehensive about India’s new data laws but Paytm is open to regulation
PaytmIANS

Paytm
Paytm is the only indigenous company to have been summoned by the JPC so far. And, it went to the panel with its solution. Paytm pitched that the government should handle the encryption and decryption of data held by global companies while letting data cross borders.

However, the proposal was quickly withdrawn after several objections by some of the members of the committee, according to Times of India.

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The Vijay Shekhar Sharma-led enterprise was asked about the quantum of Chinese investments it has received and why some of its revenues were directed back to China. It was also probed for details behind the temporary removal of its app from Google Play Store for violating its ‘gambling’ policies.

Paytm acknowledged that 35% of its investment was Chinese but that investors don’t have any say in how the company is run. They also clarified that while some personal and sensitive data may be transferred outside India for ‘processing,’ this only occurs when there is explicit consent from the user.

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