Ensure polls aren't manipulated: Par panel to IT ministry

IT ministry asked to get a "written commitment" from Facebook and other social networking sites

Facebook admitted that nearly 5.62 lakh people in India were "potentially affected" by the incident.

A parliamentary panel on Thursday directed IT ministry officials to get a "written commitment" from Facebook and other social networking sites that their platforms would not be used to manipulate Indian elections, a member present at the meeting said.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT, headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur, also told officials of the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) to furnish all written communication and queries sent to Facebook and its response, a member of the panel told PTI on condition of anonymity.

"The chairman told the ministry officials to get a written commitment from Facebook and other social media platforms with an influential market share in the country that their platforms would not be used to manipulate Indian elections," he said.

Supporting the chairman, members of the panel said the government should also get in writing the details of steps Facebook and other social networking platforms have taken or will take to avoid their misuse.

After the meeting, Thakur posted a tweet inviting questions and queries from the general public on online security and privacy.

Panel members at the meeting also said that India is still playing catch up on the issue of a robust IT data protection policy.

It is learnt that they expressed shock at the inadequate data available with MeitY regarding India's digital economy, revenue and profitability of tech giants operating in the country.

India may be left out of the IT regulatory framework unless it gets its act together, the members said. Committee members also said MeitY should take a long-term view of issues and put systems and a regulatory framework to protect the privacy of Indian citizens, they are believed to have suggested.

Last month, the Indian government issued a notice to social networking giant Facebook, seeking its response over user data breach and details of the measures it has put in place to ensure the safety and prevention of misuse of personal data.

The data of over 80 million Facebook users was allegedly harvested by data analytics and political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, leading to a global backlash against the company.

Facebook admitted that nearly 5.62 lakh people in India were "potentially affected" by the incident.

According to sources, the government is "examining" the responses submitted by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica on the data breach issue.

The Indian government had questioned both the companies on the impact of the data breach.

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