On or about October 3, 2018, the Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam quietly released their draft decree on the implementation of the country’s freshly minted Cybersecurity Law of 2018. As of press time, the MPS has yet to announce the draft decree to the public on its website. Instead, they only sent it to a few selected businesses and governmental agencies to collect feedbacks.
It is expected that this draft will undergo a few revisions.
We are highlighting a few critical points from the first version dated October 3, 2018, as follows:
1. Police’s Administration Of People’s Credit Card’s Numbers, Personal Financial History, And Political Opinions
The issue which generated the most public concern regarding the new Cybersecurity Law that was passed by Vietnam’s National Assembly on June 12, 2018, has centered around the definition of “Internet user’s personal data.” The new law summarily discussed the requirement for Internet providers to store users’ data in Vietnam and provide them to the authorities upon request. The draft decree now seeks to define this term, “personal data,” in details at Article 2, Section 2:
“Personal data is information in the form of symbols, words, numbers, pictures, sounds, or any like forms to identify the accurate identity of an individual, including:
- Data concerning personal information: name and surname, date of birth, place of birth, nationality, profession, position, place of residence, contacting address, email address, telephone number, identification card number, personal identification number, passport number, social benefits insurance card number, credit card number, health conditions, medical history record, financial history record, interests, strengths, political opinions, ethnic origin, race, philosophical beliefs, societal position, biometrics;
- Data created by individuals: the content of personal interaction, usage function, realizing conduct, time, acting frequency, selected information chosen to be uploaded, synchronizing or importing from a device;
- Data concerning the individual’s relationships: friends, pages, accounts, keywords, groups that the users connected to or interacted with.”
However, the above section does not constitute the entire list of all data which businesses are required to store and provide to the Bureau of Cybersecurity, Prevention and Opposing High Technology Crimes of the MPS.
Under Article 54, the draft decree further adds: “information used to create a user’s account” and “data occurred during the use of services, including access history, information regarding the payment for services, IP address used for accessing services, search history habits, log chat, time of the transaction.”
Moreover, the Bureau of Cybersecurity could also demand businesses to provide information concerning a user’s devices including “information about the device, attributes, activities, identification number, signal, data regarding the installation of the device, network and connectivity, cookie data.”
2. Businesses Have To Permanently Store Users’ Data, With A Few Exceptions
Regarding personal data and information used to initialize a user’s account, the draft decree explicitly demands that businesses to permanently store the data, either according to the length of their operation or until they cease to provide services.
For data which could only be generated later, such as IP address, log chat, search habits, they would have to be stored for 36 months.
3. Governmental Agencies And Businesses Providing Services Will Have One Year From January 1, 2019, To Prepare For Compliance
The final version of the decree and the Cybersecurity Law are both projected to take effect at the same time, which will be on January 1, 2019. Accordingly, governmental agencies, businesses, and related organizations will then have one year to bring themselves in compliance with such regulations concerning the storage of data, and providing them to Vietnamese authorities upon request, as well as establishing their representative offices or branches in Vietnam.
It means foreign technology companies that have been providing services to Vietnamese users, such as Google and Facebook, would have to prepare their data center, the technology infrastructure for data storage, as well as registering and opening their offices in Vietnam before January 1, 2020. During the same 12-month period, the Bureau of Cybersecurity under the MPS would also establish their own data center to “store, manage data to be turned over from businesses,” according to Section 6, Article 58.
MINDS’ CEO: Protect Free Speech, Will Only Respond to U.S Subpoenas
In the past few days, thousands of social media users in Vietnam have relocated to Minds. At the same time, debates erupted where people questioned Minds’ technology, policies, and even the possibilities that Minds would cooperate with the Vietnamese authorities in the future to “sell out” its users.
Luật Khoa magazine had conducted this interview with Bill Ottman – CEO and co-founder of Minds in response to the concerns mentioned above from the Vietnamese social media community. We are providing our readers with the English version of the interview here.
Before this “exodus” of Vietnamese Internet users to Minds, what do you know about Vietnam? (the regime, the economy, the market, human rights situations, etc.)
Vietnam is a beautiful country but unfortunately run by the Socialist Republic, a communist regime with overreaching power. I studied the Vietnam War pretty extensively and the anti-war movement in the US. I would very much like to learn more about Vietnam Pham Doan Trang, and it would be great to have a live conversation or stream together to discuss your perception of the country, both negatives and positives.
What do you think of the newly-adopted cybersecurity law in Vietnam?
I know that the law has disastrous implications for free speech and privacy. It gives the government excessive power to deem certain content ‘prohibited’, thus the ability to become a censorship machine. The law should be taken away before it goes into effect in 2019. It is destined to fail.
What is Minds’ policy toward customers’ privacy rights?
Please refer to our recent essay on how we protect user privacy. We are 100% committed to privacy. It is our core philosophy. Principles like ‘zero-knowledge’, end-to-end encryption and decentralization are all crucial for human rights. Our terms state that we comply with US law. If it is legal in the US it can be on Minds. We will not hand over user information to foreign governments or censor based on requests.
What is Minds’ policy toward the balance between privacy rights and “public security” as the police in authoritarian societies put it?
Public security is an Orwellian phrase similar to National Security. More privacy and encryption make a nation more secure, not less. More freedom of expression causes a healthy society, not less. Disinformation and propaganda are problems, but research shows that censorship makes these problems even worse. I recently wrote an article about this evidence. This has been proven by top cryptologists and cyber-security experts for a long time like Bruce Schneier and EFF.
What is your opinion regarding the need to balance the people’s human rights and the state’s efforts against terrorism (both real threats and some imaginable threats)?
Our general policy is that we require a warrant or equally compelled court order. Our general opinion is not to sacrifice freedom for safety because then we will have neither as Benjamin Franklin said.
How can we, the Vietnamese Mindsers, as a newly-formed (and maybe, quite small now) community be sure that Minds will fight for our Internet freedom rather than cooperate with the tyrannical government?
Continually ask questions, communicate with our team about concerns and hold us accountable!
Inspect our code and have your developers help us make it more secure and uncensorable.
We heard a lot about the technologies that Minds has been using. Is it true that Minds has been using decentralized, encrypted, and blockchain technologies? If yes, please describe them a little so that we the users learn more about your strength. If no, could you please tell me the difference(s) between Minds and Facebook?
Yes, we are constantly working to become more decentralized which is why we are currently leveraging technologies like Ethereum and Webtorrent. We will be focusing much more on decentralization and p2p in the future.
Facebook is plagued by surveillance, secrecy (proprietary software), manipulative algorithms, data scandals, demonetization, censorship and psychological abuse. Minds does the opposite.
Regarding blockchain, it seems like Minds is now using it only for Token-related activities. Is that right?
Yes. We use an ERC20 token on the Ethereum blockchain. Our whitepaper discusses how we publish a variety of transactions to smart contracts for our Boost and Wire products. We have an extensive reward system where top contributors earn tokens and can then use the tokens to “Boost” content for more views.
Right now 1 token gives 1,000 extra views on the content of your choice. We built this in reaction to the suppressive algorithms on facebook which diminish your organic reach and voice. It is a soft form of censorship. Minds will always have 100% organic reach and reward users with more of a voice for participation. The reward system specs can be found here.
Sorry for asking what seems like a silly question, but why did Minds create the Tokens system? What do you anticipate it to be?
We created the token in order to reward users for the contributions to the network and move the ad network (consent-based) and peer-to-peer payment and crowdfunding systems to smart contracts on the blockchain. We also created it to battle the restrictive algorithms that have caused organic reach to drop so much on facebook. 1 token currently rewards a user with 1,000 extra impressions on their content by pressing the boost button on their post. We believe people’s voices should be amplified, not silenced. Expanded, not exploited.
This does not apply to the Vietnamese government, and we will not hand over personal information to them. We will discuss with our legal team to potentially clarify this language. Essentially, we are founded upon the idea of free expression, and as you will quickly learn, Minds is more uncensored than any other network you will find.
Is it true that Minds receives some support from the Anonymous?
Yes, because we allow anonymous accounts. Though anonymous is a decentralized, leaderless group, so it has many branches and I would not want to speak for them all. I imagine not all support us, but some definitely do.
We only endorse ethical hacking, as a side-note.
What does Minds expect from Vietnam, or the community of Vietnamese Minders to be exact?
We hope more thought leaders and netizens will continue to migrate to Minds for Internet freedom. We are dedicated to constantly evolving and improving the platform based on your feedback. This is why we are 100% open source.
The best way to build the freedom network of the future is for influencers to use our tools like blogs, videos, posting, groups, wallet, tokens and bring their audiences over.
Do you think of setting up a representative office in Vietnam and/or providing a Vietnamese version of Minds for the Vietnamese people? (English is not our second language, so most people may find it difficult to use Minds in English).
Yes, this (the Vietnamese version) will be live within a couple of weeks. 🙂 Maybe sooner.
What is Minds’ strategy regarding China and Asia, Vietnam included and also your worldwide strategy?
Our strategy is to stick to our principles, continue building better tools and hopefully continue to connect with thought leaders all throughout Asia who can help migrate their audiences off of surveillance platforms.
Can you tell us a bit more about your internet activism?
I have been involved in alternative media, freedom of information and privacy activism for about a decade. To me, extreme transparency, open source philosophy, end-to-end encryption and digital rights are crucial for a free society. I helped start organizations on Facebook with millions of followers, but after Facebook’s algorithm and policies got so invasive, it was time to #deletefacebook.
What is your opinion regarding the trend of large corporations acting in concert with the state/government to become one unified threat to the people’s rights in places like Vietnam?
This is an unacceptable trend when the line between global corporation and government merges. The people need to activate on other social networks in order to disempower the corrupt corporations and empower emerging, ethical alternatives.
Vietnam, A Step Closer to Democracy With The Latest Nationwide Protests?
June 10, 2018| Nationwide protests broke out in several major cities in Vietnam in the morning and lasted well into the afternoon. As of press time, the demonstrations are still ongoing with reports of several arrests and incidents of police assaulting protestors while observers mostly described the participants as peaceful.
This time, the protests seemed to have not been organized by any groups, and the more well-known dissidents and activists were not leading the crowd. However, it was the small groups of concerned citizens coming together with substantial knowledge on their right to assemble and protest that made June 10, 2018, both memorable and surprising to people.
People were gathering and rallying in several cities this morning, Hanoi, Saigon, Nha Trang, Da Nang, and even smaller areas such as My Tho – Tien Giang, Ho Nai – Dong Nai and a few Catholics parishes in Nghe An Province.
But it may very well be the turn of events in Saigon – Hochiminh City today that has shown a level of political awakening that many observers have not seen before.
People started to gather at around 8:30 a.m. local time, coming to several areas in Saigon, from the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica in District One, walking district Nguyen Hue, in front of the U.S. Consulate, to Hoang Van Thu park near Tan Son Nhat airport. From around 500 people at one area to thousands more at another spot.
The participants have used the Livestream feature on Facebook to record the protests where they showed how knowledgeable the regular persons could be when it comes to their rights as citizens.
People at one location, while demanding that the police released those who were arrested, have questioned them:
“Have you read the Constitution. Do you know what Article 25 is? Do you know that arresting protestors is unconstitutional?”
Even when faced with assaults from police and security forces, the videos showed people were trying to tell each other to remain calm, to document the incidents with photos and videos, and do not fear because: “We did not do anything wrong!”
In Hanoi, the security forces acted swiftly in rounding up protestors and broke up the rallies. But in Saigon, thousands of people were on the streets, and by the afternoon, it seemed as if the demonstration has become unstoppable even with the police started their crackdown.
An online call to protest against the draft law creating three Special Economic Zones (SEZ) received over 160,000.00 shares on Facebook this past week. The government acted and postponed the SEZ draft law on early Saturday morning when the probability that the people will take to the streets started looming, but such efforts seemed to be futile.
The SEZ draft law was not the only bill that the citizens find problematic.
The people have a major concern regarding the SEZ draft law is because of the China factor. Anti-China rallies are nothing new in Vietnam, and for the past decades, it was the most common reason for the people to let go of their fears and gather on the streets protesting.
This time, many fear that their government has sold them short to the Chinese investors and that the SEZs will turn into mini China(s) inside Vietnam once the law goes into effect.
However, there is also the Cybersecurity draft bill pending for a vote on June 12, 2018, where Vietnam attempts to place all of its people under Big Brother’s watch, criminalizing many online activities, from misrepresenting historical facts to merely speaking unfondly of the government.
Thus, efforts were also made by several civil society groups leading by Hate Change, calling on people to also protest against the Cybersecurity draft law.
The pictures above are from today’s protests in Hanoi and Saigon-Hochiminh City. The Vietnamese thanks the owners of these pictures for their courtesy, and please contact us for photo credits because we have received them from a few sources on Facebook and Twitter.
People in Vietnam Openly Challenge Appellate Court’s Decision in Child Molestation Case, Demanding Tougher Sentence
On May 11, 2018, an appellate court in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province reviewed the verdict of the lower court in a child molestation case and reduced the sentence for the convicted, from a three-year prison term to 18 months sentencing with no actual jail time.
People became outraged as soon as the appellate verdict came out.
Some are particularly critical over one of the mitigating factors considered by the appellate court: the convicted person is a member of the Vietnamese Communist Party whose dedications and contributions to his profession in the banking field was noted.
According to Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code, Article 51(v), any person convicted of a crime (not necessary VCP members), who could demonstrate past dedications and contributions in their professional capacity, may receive considerations for a mitigating factor.
Thuỷ, 78-year-old, was initially been convicted of multiple charges, involving different victims. However, the appellate court dismissed all but one conviction against him, citing insufficient evidence for the rest. Couple with his past contributions, his elder age also played a role in his reduced sentence.
But the people are not convinced, and they quickly showed their disagreement on social media.
Child molestation, like child sexual abuse and even sexual harassment, has recently earned public awareness in Vietnam, where more victims are willing to speak out against it, and the public strongly demands perpetrators are appropriately prosecuted.
Thus, the recent appellate decision in Nguyễn Khắc Thuỷ’s case is seen by many as if the court has taken a step backward and against the momentum to raise awareness about sexual abuse crimes in society.
The Association for Children’s Right Protection of Hochiminh City (Hội bảo vệ quyền trẻ em TP Hochiminh) also condemned the court’s decision.
Attorney Trần Thị Ngọc Nữ – Head of the association – commented in a conversation with Kenh 14 news: “a person who was convicted of any crimes, especially crimes against children, shall not receive a sentence with no actual jail time.”
The People’s Supreme Procuracy Office of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province also confirmed with Người Lao Động newspaper on May 13, 2018, that their office had submitted an urgent report to their superiors in Hochiminh City regarding their concerns over the appellate court’s decision.
A trial of cessation would be the next step in the case, and the public’s close monitoring of this matter could mean that the judicial authorities may take it up for further review.
In the past two days, a petition was created in on Change.com where people request a higher court’s review of the case. It has managed to receive over 8,000 signatures and still being shared widely on social media in Vietnam.
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