Vietnam Expands Decades Long Effort To Crack Down On Any Dissent Online By Demanding Data Be Kept In The Country

from the wider-impact dept

It's no secret that the Vietnamese government is no fan of the open internet. All the way back in 2002 we wrote about the government requiring people to register just to create a website. That same year we were writing about people being arrested for posting criticism of the government. In 2008, we wrote about the Vietnamese government banning "subversive" blogs as well. With the rise of social media, Vietnam has shifted its focus there. In 2013, it banned news reporting on social media, saying it should be for personal use only. In 2014, we wrote about how the government was abusing Facebook's own reporting tools to shut down dissenters from using the site. And at the beginning of this year, we wrote about how the government now employed around 10,000 people whose only job was to monitor the internet for dissent.

And now it's going to get even worse -- to a degree that might even lead some of the big internet companies to leave Vietnam entirely. And we have the NSA (partially) to blame. Ever since the revelation of the Snowden documents, describing how the NSA was getting access to all sorts of data and metadata on foreigners by compelling various private companies to cough up their data, there's been a big push among some for data localization. Some of that push has come from privacy activists themselves, arguing in other countries that their data shouldn't be allowed to go to the US where the NSA has so much access -- but much of it has simply been using the NSA revelations as a stalking horse to get what they want: which is the ability to snoop locally on all of that data. That's why countries like Russia has been a huge proponent of data localization.

And now we can add Vietnam to the list. Despite strong condemnation from the US (and US internet companies) it appears that Vietnam wants to require any internet company with Vietnamese users to host that data locally where the government and its thousands of content monitors can snoop on it:

The new draft decree requires companies providing a range of services, including email, social media, video, messaging, banking and e-commerce, to set up offices in Vietnam if they collect, analyze or process personal user data.

The companies would also be required to store a wide range of user data, ranging from financial records and biometric data to information on peoples’ ethnicity and political views, or strengths and interests inside Vietnam’s border.

Not surprisingly, the same law gives law enforcement much greater ability to demand data from these platforms, because of course it does. The Vietnamese officials pushing this plan say its necessary for "cybersecurity" which is utter nonsense.

This could be a real test for companies like Facebook and Google and there's a strong argument they (and others) should seriously consider simply shutting off access in that country, even as both sites are quite popular there. Giving in here will undoubtedly mean having to give in elsewhere, and literally supporting the suppression of political dissent.


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  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 19 Oct 2018 @ 12:11pm

    Ignore It

    > The new draft decree requires companies providing a range of services, including email, social media, video, messaging, banking and e-commerce, to set up offices in Vietnam if they collect, analyze or process personal user data.

    Considering that this requires companies to set up offices, it apparently purports to apply to companies that *don't* have a physical presence in Vietnam?

    If that's the case, any US company that meets that criteria can just ignore this. Vietnam laws don't control them if they don't have a physical presence in the country. Vietnam's only recourse is to block companies that don't comply from access within Vietnam.

    Vietnam isn't the super-legislature for the entire world, binding all 7 billion people on the planet with its decrees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 12:33pm

      Re: Ignore It

      ...what ?? Everybody else in world doesn't have to follow the dictates of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) ??

      Business dealings with criminals always carry more risks.
      Laws enacted by criminal regimes ain't legitimate laws (even here).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 20 Oct 2018 @ 8:57am

      Re: Ignore It

      Unfortunately, that's not necessarily true. It is against federal law in the US to violate the laws of any country in certain ways. The Lacey Act, for example, sent a US resident to prison for violating a Honduran law (that it had been repealed before he 'broke' it was deemed irrelevant by the court), despite the fact he had never been to Honduras.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 1:02pm

    I'm sure Google will be willing to help.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 1:04pm

    > Giving in here will undoubtedly mean having to give in elsewhere, and literally supporting the suppression of political dissent.

    Are you intentionally ignoring the fact that Google has already had hundreds of employees working full time to build something to assist the Chinese government in suppressing political dissent?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 19 Oct 2018 @ 1:09pm

    The strategy of the game

    1) all our users data must be kept in our country on a server in our country
    2) since our users data is on a server in our country, you have a nexus of business in our country
    3) since you now have a nexus of service in our country, we will tax you 3% of your global revenue (H/T to the EU)

    So.. how many countries get to play the tax game before each company goes out of business?

    Gets rid of all them foreign companies who won't comply with the instructions of what information the people are allowed to know, and back to local-only, well-controlled media.

    And that's the real game.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 4:23pm

      Re: The strategy of the game

      Google, et. al., will likely do nothing at all. It will be up to the Vietnamese gov't to setup a Great Wall of Vietnam and block anything they don't like. None of this should instigate any effort at all on the part of any non-Vietnamese company.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Smith, 19 Oct 2018 @ 6:34pm

    And? I don't see a problem here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 22 Oct 2018 @ 7:45am

    no worries there

    seriously consider simply shutting off access in that country

    Much simpler solution: have no office in that country. With no office, and presumably a corresponding lack of assets, they are free to ignore any decrees from Vietnam.

    Think of it as a message: ``I fart in your general direction, which I am allowed to do from here in the States because we have a First Amendment and you all have an unappetizing little dictator.''

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matthew A. Sawtell, 23 Oct 2018 @ 6:46am

    Hm... I think most Vietnamese already have moved to MINDS...

    ... to avoid being 'Dragonflied' by the masters in Silicon Valley in their attempts to appease the powers to be in Hanoi.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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