National Assembly deputy Luu Binh Nhuong from Ben Tre Province believes Facebook and Google are not in any haste to leave Vietnam after the cybersecurity law was passed because Vietnam is a market with huge potential.
Vietnam’s legislature voted pass to the cybersecurity law which requires all foreign providers of Internet-related services to open representative offices and data centres in Vietnam on June 12. The Ministry of Public Security under the new law set to enter operation on January 1, 2019, would be able to access the data systems of private companies for investigation in cases where there is a supposed threat to national security. The firms would be forced to remove anti-state content upon request from the authorities.
Vietnam is among 20 countries with the highest number of internet users in the world and was ranked 7th in the top 10 countries with the highest number of Facebook users. About 64 million Vietnamese have Facebook accounts, accounting for 3% of the total users in the world. 60% of them are young people.
Google is the top search engine in Vietnam and internationally. Over 60% of revenues from global advertisements go to Google and Facebook.
The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the law violates commitments made as a WTO member and the as yet ratified EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. It also expressed worries that Google and Facebook may leave Vietnam.
However, NA Deputy Luu Binh Nhuong from Ben Tre Province claimed the cybersecurity law was necessary since there are too many social networks with unverified information.
“We have to put national interests first. Deputies and citizens must be aware that national security is the top concern,” Nhuong said. “Vietnam is a huge market so I believe that Google and Facebook will continue working with us and strengthen business conditions as required.”
He went on saying that the law was not meant to restrict civil rights but aimed at cyber criminals. Nhuong said they would keep monitoring the situation and revise the law accordingly.
The NA Standing Committee said there were security exceptions to WTO rules and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Vietnam has the power to ask firms that provide telecommunications and value-added services to open representative offices and data centres in Vietnam. Over 18 countries including the US, Canada, Germany and France require firms to open data centres in their countries.
Google and Facebook are storing data about Vietnamese users in data centres in Hong Kong and Singapore and would be forced to transfer the data to Vietnam once the law takes effect. According to the standing committee, there are several benefits such as network problems can be solved much more quickly and state agencies can better manage those firms and deal with violators.
Depending on the laws and the situations that only some certain businesses will be required to set up data centres and representative offices. The flow of data and the operation of other organisations would not be affected.