The new Cyber Security Law was passed last week by Vietnam’s National Assembly. The new law comes with a great deal of international controversy and doubts as to whether the law is actually in conformity with existing international treaties of which Vietnam is a signatory.

Three major concerns arise from a perusal of international coverage of the new law.

First, there are questions of privacy. Many observers report that Vietnam has made major strides in its efforts to improve investment and privacy for tech and social media. However, there are provisions in the new law which require internet service providers to cooperate with state authorities, giving them time limits to report to state requests. In particular, this privacy issue is brought to question because it is the Ministry of Public Security which has prepared and drafted the new Cyber Security Law. Some international organizations fear that this will open the door to ambiguous enforcement and allow the Ministry of Public Security to enforce the law according to its own fiat.

Second, there are questions of investment loss. Many of the requirements listed in the law are directed towards foreign companies that provide internet services to Vietnamese citizens. For example, both Facebook and Google, as well as an uncertain number of other digital service providers, will be required to open a physical site in Vietnam and store data gathered from Vietnam on servers located in Vietnam. They will also be coerced to cooperate with state authorities in investigations that may not be well defined.

Third, the definitions in the new law are questionably broad and may encompass more than the National Assembly originally intended. This is somewhat of a problem with much developing country law, but Vietnam has recently been fighting this tendency with more finely tuned legal documentation. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the Cyber Security Law.

Finally, the law will go into effect on 1 January 2019. There are questions as to how much this law will negatively affect both GDP and foreign investment inflows. For now, we will have to wait for implementing decrees and hope they go a long way towards defining what is undefined in the law.

FYI: Indochine Counsel will be releasing a special alert on this subject soon.

Photo: Chris Roberts/MOD [OGL (], via Wikimedia Commons