Vietnamese lawmakers yesterday approved a controversial cybersecurity law, voting amid tight security following weekend protests over other legislation that turned violent in some parts of the country.
The law, approved by 91 percent of attending lawmakers, would require Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and other global technology firms to store locally “important” personal data on users in Vietnam and open offices in the country.
The companies have pushed back against the provisions.
The vote took place two days after thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in several cities and provinces to denounce a plan to create new economic zones for foreign investment that has fueled anti-Chinese sentiment in the country.
Security was tight ahead of the vote, with police guarding barricades outside the National Assembly in the capital, Hanoi.
Some protesters on Sunday had derided the cybersecurity bill, which experts and activists have said could cause economic harm and stifle online dissent.
The US and Canada had urged Vietnam to delay the vote and review the bill to ensure that it aligned with international standards amid worries that it might present serious obstacles to Vietnam’s cybersecurity and digital innovation.
Some of the localization requirements might increase costs, uncertainty and risks for Canadian businesses and inhibit their global operations, the Canadian government has said.
The Vietnam Digital Communication Association said the requirements could reduce the nation’s GDP by 1.7 percent and wipe off 3.1 percent of foreign investment.
Trade and foreign investment are key to Vietnam’s economy.
It also raised fears about tougher restrictions on online dissent by requiring social media companies in Vietnam to remove offending content from their platforms within one day of receiving a request from the authorities.
Human Rights Watch last week said the bill targets freedom of expression and access to information, while Amnesty International said the law would allow Vietnamese authorities to force technology firms to hand over data to censor users’ posts.
Vo Trong Viet, head of the defense and security committee, which drafted the law, said the requirement to store data inside Vietnam was feasible and crucial to fighting cybercrime, and was in line with international rules.
“Placing data centers in Vietnam increases costs for businesses, but [it] is a necessary requirement to meet the cybersecurity needs of the country,” he told lawmakers.
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