User data of social media companies and telecommunications operators will have to be stored onshore in Vietnam, as per the government’s new decree. The move is seen as a measure to tighten the country’s cybersecurity rules.
The decree, issued on Wednesday, will take effect from October 1. It gives authorities the right to issue data collection requests for investigations, and also asks service providers to remove content that is in violation of government guidelines.
The move is likely to impact companies such as Google and Facebook, which have a large user base in Vietnam. It comes amid a global trend of governments tightening regulations on tech firms.
“Data of all internet users ranging from financial records and biometric data to information on peoples’ ethnicity and political views, or any data created by users while surfing the internet must be to stored domestically,” the decree states.
Vietnam tightens grip on internet usage
Vietnam is known for its strict internet controls, and the new decree is seen as a further effort to tighten its grip on online activity. It is expected to likely to further stifle dissent and free speech in Vietnam. It also comes at a time when the country is already facing international criticism for its human rights record.
In 2019, the country introduced a new cybersecurity law that requires tech firms to cooperate with authorities in identifying users who have breached laws on cybersecurity, and to delete content deemed to be “anti-government,” “offensive” or “inciteful.”
More decrees coming
The government is also expected to issue another decree soon that will impose more control over cross-border social media services and livestreaming. The decree may require a user of a foreign social network with more than 10,000 subscribers from Vietnam to notify the MIC of its contact details, number of subscribers, and summary of its main content. Anyone providing livestreaming and revenue-generating services to a Vietnamese audience will also need to do the same.
Over the last year, Southeast Asian governments have been stepping up their efforts to regulate the internet and rein in social media platforms. Fake news is being used as a pretext to justify these moves, but they are also seen as an attempt by authoritarian regimes to tighten their grip on power.
In May, the US and ASEAN released a joint vision statement committing to improving cybersecurity capabilities and promoting digital literacy. The statement also said that the two sides would strengthen frameworks and policies that foster efficiency, innovation, communication, safe and equitable use of the internet and economic prosperity.
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