Get commitment from FB, others: panel

The panel asked the IT Ministry to seek a written commitment from social networking sites that these platforms will not misuse Indian data for political or other purposes. Reuters file photo for representation.

A parliamentary panel on Thursday posed tough questions before the Ministry of Information and Technology and asked it to seek a written commitment from social networking sites, including Facebook, that these platforms will not misuse Indian data for political or other purposes.

As the ministry officials failed to answer most of the questions, Chairman of the Standing Committee on Information Technology Anurag Thakur, a BJP MP, asked Ajay Prakash Sawhney, secretary for electronics and IT, to furnish a written reply within ten days.

Officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, who were summoned by the panel to brief on the subject 'Citizens' data security and privacy' were asked by the chairman, as well as the members, whether they are aware of the locations where these online platforms store the data.

"There was no clear answer. The ministry officials were not aware," said a member on the condition of anonymity.

Thakur is learnt to have asked the ministry officials "whether you have taken a commitment in writing from Facebook that it will not misuse Indian data either for political or any other purpose," a source said.

The panel chairman later took to Twitter to seek the citizens' views on the issue of data security and online privacy.

"The Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology examined the issue of citizens' data security/online privacy and heard the views of @GoI_MeitY Officials. This is an important issue and we will hold further meetings; you may email your views on the matter to the committee," he tweeted.

At the meeting, some panel members flagged the need for the government to take a comprehensive view on putting up systems and a regulatory framework to protect the privacy of Indian citizen and check data breach.

The meeting of the parliamentary panel has come amid a huge political controversy over an exposé that the data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica mined a whopping 50 million profiles from the social networking site to plan campaigns for 2016 US elections and Brexit referendum.

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