New law brings increased censorship and surveillance to Vietnam

Vietnam Comms

Online censorship and surveillance is about to get a whole lot worse in Vietnam with the country’s new Cybersecurity Law scheduled to come into effect on January 1st.

The new law, which has been 18 months in the making, is expected to help cement Vietnam’s Communist regimes grip on power as it will increase their power to carry out online surveillance operations against regular internet users.

It is therefore expected that a significant number of Vietnam’s 65 million internet users will turn to a VPN such as ExpressVPN to try and keep their online activities private and secure.

Vietnam’s cyber-security Achilles heel

There is no doubt that Vietnam’s cyber security laws needed beefing up. The UN ranked the country 101st out of 165 countries for exposure to cyber-attacks last year. There were also more than 6,500 recorded malware or phishing attacks against Vietnamese websites in the first eight months of 2018, according to Viet Nam News.

It is also thought that much of Vietnam’s recent economic development has been thanks to the relatively free internet access that the country enjoys.

Vietnam’s Communist regime will not want to put all this at risk by going down the same road as their Communist neighbours in China. But they do want to try and decrease the threat of cyber-attacks and if new laws help to strengthen their own powers then so much the better.

Opposition voices in Vietnam fear that the new laws will lead to a new crackdown on dissent. A number of prominent online activists and bloggers have already been arrested over the past couple of years.

Under the new laws, it will be much easier for the Communist authorities to collect usernames, profiles and data on their friends. They also fear the Vietnamese Police Ministry will abuse the new law to seize users data with minimal safeguards on their activities.

One new power that is being introduced will enable the Communist authorities to demand evidence from email providers and social media sites and use this to build criminal cases against individuals.

Pressure on big tech companies

As part of this new power, they are also going to demand that big tech companies like Google and Facebook store all data related to Vietnamese users inside the country. They are not the first country to make this demand, with Russia implementing a similar law last year.

If tech companies don’t want to do this, they have one other option, but that is arguably even worse. They can choose to self-censor all content that is critical of the Vietnamese regime and be willing to turn over user content when requested to do so.

The problem for the likes of Google and Facebook is that they will come under pressure from US stakeholders not to comply with such rules.

After the Vietnamese cyber-security laws were passed back in June, U.S. congressional representatives wrote to Google and Facebook urging them to avoid storing data in Vietnam and to establish “transparent guidelines” on any content removal in Vietnam. They also requested the publication of the number of requests for removal.

Big tech companies have warned that the new requirements would “hobble investment and economic growth in Vietnam” according to Voice of America.

But with just a few days until the new laws come into force none have publicly declared how they will deal with the new requirements. Facebook issued a typically sycophantic statement saying it “remains committed to its community in Vietnam and in helping Vietnamese businesses grow at home and abroad.”

How to evade Vietnam’s new censorship regime

Given that Vietnam is already a single-party Communist state, it is already highly advisable to use a VPN when going online there. But from January 1st, it will be even more essential.

By connecting to a VPN you can ensure that everything you do online in Vietnam is encrypted and therefore safe from surveillance or prying eyes. By redirecting your online data through a VPN’s external server, you can also access any websites that might be blocked in Vietnam too.

VPNs such as ExpressVPN are already an essential tool for internet users in other countries with similar laws to Vietnam. From January 1st, they will be just as vital in Vietnam too.

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