Viet­nam passes cy­ber­se­cu­rity law de­spite pri­vacy con­cerns

The Myanmar Times - - Asean Focus -

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

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

Ad­dress­ing the Com­mu­nist Par­ty­dom­i­nated as­sem­bly be­fore the vote, chair­man of the Com­mit­tee on De­fence 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 Or­gan­i­sa­tion and the TransPa­cific Part­ner­ship, but he said there are ex­cep­tions on na­tional se­cu­rity grounds.

He said re­quir­ing for­eign com­pa­nies to set up data cen­tres 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.

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

Jeff Paine, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Asia In­ter­net Coali­tion, an in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion that in­cludes Google and Face­book, said that the group was dis­ap­pointed with the pas­sage of the law whose re­quire­ments on data lo­cal­i­sa­tion, con­tent con­trol and lo­cal of­fices will hin­der the coun­try’s am­bi­tions to achieve GDP and job growth.

“Un­for­tu­nately, these pro­vi­sions will re­sult in se­vere lim­i­ta­tions on Viet­nam’s dig­i­tal econ­omy, damp­en­ing the for­eign in­vest­ment cli­mate and hurt­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cal busi­nesses and SMEs to flour­ish in­side and beyond Viet­nam,” he said in a state­ment.

The Viet­nam Dig­i­tal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions As­so­ci­a­tion said the law may re­duce GDP growth by 1.7pc and wipe out 3.1pc of for­eign in­vest­ment.

Face­book did not com­ment on the new leg­is­la­tion.

The United States and Canada had called on Viet­nam to de­lay the pas­sage of leg­is­la­tion.

The US 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 speech.

“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 Viet­nam’s govern­ment on this re­gres­sive leg­is­la­tion,” she said.

– AP

Photo: VNA/VNS

Deputies in Viet­nam’s Na­tional As­sem­bly vote on the cy­ber­se­cu­rity law on Tues­day in Hanoi.

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