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India parliamentary panel urged to summon global heads of Facebook, other tech giants

Reuters  |  MUMBAI 

By Sankalp Phartiyal

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian activists have petitioned a parliamentary panel to summon the heads of U.S. tech firms including and Alphabet Inc's and question them on issues ranging from tax compliance to data privacy.

The petition, sent by a group that previously dragged to court and a right-wing political activist, comes a day after the panel summoned chief to discuss ways to safeguard citizens' rights on and

companies are coming under increased scrutiny in ahead of elections due before May in which is seeking another term. Some firms are overhauling policies to curb misinformation ahead of the vote.

In a letter to Anurag Thakur, the of the parliamentary panel on (IT), the New Delhi-based Centre For Accountability And Systemic Change (CASC) and right-wing activist say the global heads of Facebook, its WhatsApp, its photo-sharing platform Instagram, along with the chiefs of and Google, should all be summoned to answer queries on tax and other issues.

"We're calling everyone. But we have to start with someone," said Thakur, when asked about whether the panel he leads would also summon the heads of other

"In the past we called everyone on net neutrality... On this subject also of safeguarding citizens' rights and privacy we'll call everyone concerned. Of course, we have to call those people who are authorised to take decisions and who head organisations."

Facebook, WhatsApp, and did not immediately respond to requests for comment. declined to comment.

CASC describes itself as a think-tank that takes up public interest issues. Govindacharya is a former member of a Hindu nationalist group that is the ideological parent of Modi's

They have asked the IT panel to seek from firms a status report on the "transfer of sensitive personal data of millions of Indians", according to a copy of the letter seen by

CASC has previously taken to court, accusing the messaging platform of not complying with India's IT laws and not having a

The Indian IT Act mandates that intermediaries or carriers of content such as WhatsApp, appoint a to handle any queries, concerns or issues that users of the platform may have that do not come under the purview of other authorities.

has previously said it has both an Indian corporate entity and a for Indian users.

(Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by and Gareth Jones)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, February 12 2019. 20:12 IST