HANOI (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc’s Google is studying steps toward opening a representative office in Vietnam, the government of the Southeast Asian nation said on its website, citing Google’s Senior Vice President Kent Walker.
Despite economic reforms and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate dissent.
The news comes as a controversial cybersecurity law is set to take effect next month, requiring global technology firms to open local offices and store data in the country.
“Google is studying steps to open a representative office in Vietnam,” the website quoted Kent as saying on Tuesday, and adding that Google would abide by laws of the host nation, while ensuring it does not contradict international laws.
Vietnam appreciated an opinion Google contributed to a draft decree on guidelines to implement the law and ensure cyber safety and security, the website added.
“We remain very excited to see how technology is being used by businesses and people in Vietnam. There are a number of different factors we look at before opening an office, but we have nothing to announce at this time,” a Google spokesman told Reuters in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
Vietnam’s new law has provoked objections from tech companies, rights groups and Western governments, including the United States.
Facebook and Google, which are widely used in Vietnam and serve as the main platforms for dissidents, do not have offices or data storage facilities there and have pushed back on the localization requirements.
The security ministry said the law would protect Vietnam from tens of thousands of large-scale cyber attacks that directly cause serious economic losses and threaten security and social order.
This year, Vietnam, which has been drafting a code of conduct for the internet, asked Facebook to open a local office.
Its information ministry also wants half of social media customers to use domestic social networks by 2020, and plans to stamp out “toxic information” on Facebook and Google.
The draft decree, released last month, requires providers of services such as email and social media to set up offices if they collect or analyze data, allow anti-state actions or cyber attack by users, and fail to remove objectionable content.
Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Himani Sarkar