Reports from the Institute for Policy Studies and Media Development (under Vietnam Digital Communications Association) reveal that user databases have become an utterly precious resource which is highly profitable to the digital economy.
It is even considered the ‘new gold’ of the time, as said by World Bank Country Director for Vietnam Carolyn Turk, when she mentioned the need to invest in data.
Sadly, data existing nowadays on the Internet from around 11 billion electronic devices can be easily stolen although some of them is managed by giant prestigious technological companies like Facebook or Google.
In March 2020, a hacker went online to boast about owning a database of 41 million Vietnamese Facebook accounts (past schools and workplaces, addresses, full names, and Facebook ID). Not long after that, on Raid Forum, a file with confidential information of over 163 million Zing ID accounts was uploaded for free. This was a wake-up call for the community about weaknesses in data security.
To make matter worse, the incident of over 500,000 Zoom accounts, including Vietnamese ones, being sold openly on the Internet in April 2020 truly makes people feel anxious.
It seems that the illegal activity of selling sensitive information online, be it related to state units (police force, national defense, tax) or in the economic sector (bank accounts, insurance, business registration documents) and the education field (parents, teachers, students), has been out of control in Vietnam.
Yet until now, in Vietnam, there has been almost no case of a business being blamed for information leak, accidentally or not.
In addition, punishments for these cases, if applicable, is not harsh enough, said Director of CyRadar Cyber Security Co. Nguyen Minh Duc.
He cited the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of EU, effective as of 2018, saying that any business losing its control over its client information due to unexpected incidents or weak management, has to be fined up to 4 percent of its global annual revenue.
There is no such policy in Vietnam, where 60 percent of its population uses the Internet every day. Their personal information might be stolen at any moment.
Another point worth mentioning is the method to exploit user data effectively.
In 2019, 45.3 million people in Vietnam accessed Facebook, making it a lucrative marketing channel. However, the country receives no profit at all from this digital economic sector. Obviously, only giant technological enterprises like FPT, VNG, VCCorporation, Vietcombank, Vietnam Airlines consider making use of these data or the Big Data technology to develop their strategic growth plan.
Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Thanh Hung stated that forming an e-government and later a digital government, along with the digital economy, is an unavoidable trend in Vietnam. And one of the most essential factors of the digital economy is data, which is labeled as its ‘fuel’.
Undoubtedly, the tasks of creating, storing, handling, and sharing data properly, smoothly, and securely is critical to any nation in order to ensure a high-quality service from the Government to both businesses and citizens.
Lawyer Nguyen Tien Lap from the Institute for Policy Studies and Media Development said that the most challenging task at the moment is to clearly identify if personal data belong to that person or not, whether it is considered a personality right or property right. Since these data possess very high risks and is normally the target of hackers, does protecting them contrast with ensuring public security?
Therefore, in order to transfer to the digital economy successfully, it is necessary to prepare suitable laws to guard personal data and personality right.
Deputy Director of Oxfam Vietnam Pham Quang Tu also shared that Vietnam needs a legal frame to protect confidential data and the right to privacy to ensure the smooth operation of the digital economy, which bases on databases. This frame needs to allow people to file a lawsuit if they think their personal data and privacy is violated. Meanwhile, non-profit organizations should help citizens in this process if needed.