Google Inc , the American online titan, issued a statement on June 10 questioning the new Internet regulations imposed by the Vietnamese government. According to Dorothy Chou, Policy Analyst at Google, these new restrictions raises disturbing concerns that the government may be working to block access to websites and track user activity.
The statement, posted on Google’s Public Policy blog explained that the new regulations passed in April requires that all retail Internet locations in the capital of Hanoi install a server-side application by 2011.
The nature of the server-side application remains unclear although there have been suggestions that it is a tracking and monitoring software. An English translation of the regulation was posted on the blog of the pro-democracy group, Viet Tan. The regulation was signed by the Deputy Chief of the Hanoi People Committee, Ngo Thi Thanh Hang.
Article 4, subsection 1d of the regulation states:
“Invest in setting up centralized control system on domain server PC with applied technical and professional conventions to guarantee system safety, secured communication correlate to the scope of business. Domain server must have an installed copy of Internet Service Retailers Management Software recognized by the authority”
Meanwhile, Article 4 of the regulation states:
“All organizations and individuals that are owners of hotels, restaurants, offices, airports, bus stations, etc… when providing Internet service to consumer at the locations stated above without a collection fee must sign a retail contract with the Internet service retailer and execute all stipulations apply to the retailer, except any stipulation relates to pricing and service hours.”
This effectively includes all commercial establishments in the directive, and not only on the city’s internet cafés as previously reported by news agencies.
The Communist government has not publicly responded to these allegations. However, the Government has previously released information that they consider the pro-democracy group Viet-Tan as terrorist. The American government however claims that there is no evidence to substantiate the claims.
This was apparently not the first incident of its kind. Earlier this year, thousands of Vietnamese internet users were infected by a malicious malware that spied on them and also launched Internet attacks on sites criticizing a government-backed bauxite mining venture to be built by a Chinese company in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. The project has generated heated debate among some Vietnamese who fear it will create environmental problems or lead to Chinese workers flooding into the strategically sensitive region.
Additionally, the Vietnamese government has repeatedly blocked access to Facebook since last year. A number of other social networking sites have also been shut down, including one devoted to the bauxite issue.