Google Inc. says new Internet regulations in Vietnam raise disturbing concerns that the government may be working to block access to websites and track user activity.
An entry posted Thursday on Google's online public policy blog said new regulations passed in April require that all retail Internet locations in the capital of Hanoi must install special software on their server computers by 2011.
"The implementation of an application like this one would choke off access to information for many in Hanoi — given how popular Internet cafes are among Internet users in Vietnam," Google policy analyst Dorothy Chou wrote in the blog. "If the regulation spreads beyond Hanoi, it will impose these vague and non-transparent restrictions on users all over the country."
It is not clear what type of software would be installed, but the blog linked to an English translation of the regulations posted by Viet Tan, a pro-democracy group with members inside Vietnam and abroad.
It said the computers must have government-approved "Internet Retailers Management Software" installed on them.
The regulations apply to all Internet retailers and businesses providing Web service, such as hotels and Internet cafes, it said.
The Vietnamese government considers Viet Tan a terrorist group, but the U.S. has said there is no evidence to support that allegation.
Vietnamese officials in Hanoi did not immediately respond to questions about the regulations on Friday. The Communist government does not tolerate any form of dissent or challenge to its one-party rule. Dozens of dissidents have been jailed for using the Internet to promote democracy.
In March, Google said the computers of "potentially tens of thousands" of Vietnamese users had been infected by malicious software that spied on them and also launched Internet attacks on sites criticizing a government-backed bauxite mining project to be built by a Chinese company in Vietnam's Central Highlands. The project has generated heated debate among some Vietnamese who fear it will create environmental problems or lead to Chinese workers flooding into the strategically sensitive region.
The government has intermittently blocked Facebook since late last year, and other social networking sites also have been shut down, including one devoted to the bauxite issue.
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