Viet­nam passes cy­ber­se­cu­rity law de­spite pri­vacy con­cerns

The Myanmar Times - - International / Business -

VIETNAMESE leg­is­la­tors on Tues­day passed a con­tentious cy­ber­se­cu­rity law, which crit­ics say will hurt the econ­omy and fur­ther re­strict free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

The law re­quires ser­vice providers such as Google and Face­book to store user data in Viet­nam, open of­fices in the coun­try and re­move of­fend­ing con­tents within 24 hours at the re­quest of the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and the spe­cial­ized cy­ber­se­cu­rity task­force un­der the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity.

Ad­dress­ing the Com­mu­nist Par­ty­dom­i­nated as­sem­bly be­fore the vote, chair­man of the Com­mit­tee on De­fense and Se­cu­rity Vo Trong Viet said the law is “ex­tremely nec­es­sary to de­fend the in­ter­ests of the peo­ple and na­tional se­cu­rity”.

Viet said the law doesn’t con­tra­dict Viet­nam’s com­mit­ments to multi­na­tional trade treaties such as the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion and the Transpa­cific Part­ner­ship, but he said there are ex­cep­tions on na­tional se­cu­rity grounds.

He said re­quir­ing for­eign com­pa­nies to set up data cen­ters in Viet­nam may in­crease their op­er­a­tional costs, but it was nec­es­sary for the coun­try’s cy­ber­se­cu­rity and will fa­cil­i­tate the com­pa­nies’ oper­a­tions and user ac­tiv­i­ties.

“When there are acts of vi­o­la­tion of cy­ber­se­cu­rity, the co­or­di­na­tion in han­dling the vi­o­la­tions will be more ef­fec­tive and more vi­able,” Viet said, with­out elab­o­rat­ing. The United States and Canada have called on Viet­nam to de­lay the pas­sage of leg­is­la­tion.

The U.S. Em­bassy said last week it found the draft con­tain­ing “se­ri­ous ob­sta­cles to Viet­nam’s cy­ber­se­cu­rity and dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion fu­ture, and may not be con­sis­tent with Viet­nam’s in­ter­na­tional trade com­mit­ments.”

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said the de­ci­sion has po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

“In the coun­try’s deeply re­pres­sive cli­mate, the on­line space was a rel­a­tive refuge where peo­ple could go to share ideas and opin­ions with less fear of cen­sure by the author­i­ties,” Clare Al­gar, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s di­rec­tor of global oper­a­tions, said in a state­ment Tues­day. She said the law grants the govern­ment sweep­ing pow­ers to mon­i­tor on­line ac­tiv­ity, which means “there is now no safe place left in Viet­nam for peo­ple to speak freely.”

“This law can only work if tech com­pa­nies co­op­er­ate with govern­ment de­mands to hand over pri­vate data. These com­pa­nies must not be party to hu­man rights abuses, and we urge them to use the con­sid­er­able power they have at their dis­posal to chal­lenge Viet Nam’s govern­ment on this re­gres­sive leg­is­la­tion,” she said.

The Viet­nam Dig­i­tal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions As­so­ci­a­tion said the law may re­duce the gross do­mes­tic prod­uct by 1.7 per­cent and wipe out for­eign in­vest­ment by 3.1 per­cent.

An es­ti­mated 70 per­cent of Viet­nam’s 93 mil­lion peo­ple are on­line and some 53 mil­lion peo­ple have Face­book ac­counts.

De­spite sweep­ing eco­nomic re­forms since the mid-1980s that made Viet­nam one of fastest grow­ing economies in the re­gion, author­i­ties main­tains tight con­trol over al­most all as­pects of life in­clud­ing the me­dia and re­li­gion and tol­er­ate no chal­lenge to the one-party rule.

Photo: Agen­cies

Vietnamese law­mak­ers vote on the cy­ber­se­cu­rity law in Hanoi on Tues­day.

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