Featured Image

HANOI, Vietnam (LifeSIteNews) — Communist Vietnam’s amended 2023 Law on Identification, which  comes into effect on July 1, will mandate iris scans, fingerprints, and facial images as biometric data to be collected and stored for the registration of Vietnamese identity cards. 

According to Le Tan Toi, Vietnam’s chairman of the National Defense and Security Committee, an individual’s iris does not change over time and is a better basis for identity verification than other characteristics, like fingerprints, that may be damaged or altered.

Based on the amended law, government authorities will have the ability to key in citizens’ biometric details, including records of blood type, into the national population database under the management of the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the national police force. 

Moreover, the new law stipulates that Vietnamese police can start the voluntary collection of DNA information and voice samples of citizens from age 14 for use in Vietnam’s new identification system. 

Currently police are required to collect only citizens’ fingerprints and facial images when the latter are registering new identity cards. However, as per the amended law, the MPS will now encrypt and store citizens’ information in the chip-based identity cards, which the authorities began issuing to all citizens in 2022. 

READ: Target illegally collects customers’ biometric data, class action lawsuit alleges

The revised law will also empower criminal investigation agencies to gather the biometric data of people of interest to them. Vietnam’s MPS will exclusively develop and manage the country’s population database.  

Critics of the amended law, who include some lawmakers in the Vietnamese National Assembly, voiced their fears over risks of privacy and potential data violations after authorities announced their plan to gather and store citizens’ sensitive personal data. As iris scans and DNA samples are unique to individual citizens, the police force in communist Vietnam could use these details for surveillance purposes.  

Additionally, cybercriminals could use biometric data for identity theft and other related crimes. 

Adrianus Warmenhoven, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN, told TechRadar in 2023 that “all recorded data is hackable… [B]iometric information is a valuable target for cybercriminals, and hacking of this type of data becomes a popular way of identity theft.” 

However, many of us are already at risk of identity theft. As Warmenhoven added:  

While we are the owners of our own faces and voices, we are not the only ones with access to them. Over the years of being active social media users, people [have] left so much biometric data that with the current capabilities of artificial intelligence to create deep fakes, it becomes a weapon against our privacy. 

READ: Biometric ID verification set to be used at all NFL stadiums in 2024

In 2023, Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications proposed a draft decree declaring that social media accounts must be authenticated with users’ real names and phone numbers to be able to post, livestream, comment, or participate in various types of online interaction.  

Although the proponents justified the draft decree, saying that it would help authorities “govern internet services”, naysayers lambasted authorities for attempting to monitor government critics and dissenters.  

Globally, Vietnam ranks relatively low in safeguarding citizens’ rights and freedoms. The country scored only 22 out of 100 in the Freedom on the Net report for 2022. Vietnam’s 2018  cybersecurity law significantly restricted online free speech, and  the Freedom on the Net 2023 report classified Vietnam’s internet as “not free”, declaring that the Vietnamese government has “continued to enforce stringent controls over the country’s online environment” while “activists and ordinary people are often punished for their online activities.” In addition, the communist country ranked 178 out of 180 in the 2023 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index ranking.