Privacy protection

Some of the reforms of government institutions have been accompanied by automation of administrative functions using electronic databases and on-line search procedures. Following these techno-organizational changes, let us provide an illustration of a possible policy initiative that could anticipate a flexible approach within government by using outside expertise: The Office of the Government is planning an automated communications network (a wide-area network) consisting of an electronic data center in Hanoi with provincial and local nodes that collect, compile and transmit information to and from the center. Not only public but also private services in today's Vietnam requires data to be moved onto electronic systems. Some of this data will be accessible nationwide in the near future.

When data on individual citizens are becoming more easily available to the authorities, there is a debate in Vietnam -- as in most other countries on the need for legal protection of the privacy of individuals and of groups of individuals. However, as far as we know, there is no preparation going on for a privacy protection act in the parliament. And no authority oversees the establishment of new electronic data bases and electronic communication networks from a privacy-protection point-of-view.

If future databases, such as the new taxation system, will contain detailed personal data in a centralized data bank, reactions could come from citizens arguing for better privacy-protection. Furthermore, even distributed systems of independent databases operated locally could easily be made universally accessible. Whether centralized or decentralized databases, the advent of electronic records on individuals may call for better privacy protection. These information-technological changes may also call for institutional or procedural reforms. It might be appropriate to invite a committee of experts from different sectors of society to draft a legislative proposal that provides a comprehensive scheme of privacy protection for individual records that are stored and communicated by electronic means.


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