However, Google did not confirm or deny concrete plans to establish an office in Vietnam, a country with a population of 96m where more than half of the country are active internet users.

“Google is studying steps to open a representative office in Vietnam,” the Vietnamese government said on its website on Tuesday, citing Kent Walker, a senior vice president with the company.

Google said that it remained “very excited to see how technology is being used by businesses and people in Vietnam,” but did not confirm the Vietnamese government’s claim.

“There are a number of different factors we look at before opening an office, but we have nothing to announce at this time,” the company said.

Google’s next step in Vietnam, where it and Facebook are the two most-used websites, is being watched closely ahead of the cyber-security law, which takes effect on January 1.

Vietnam’s communist government says it needs the law to police online content, including false news reports, but human rights groups say it could be used to suppress free expression.

Foreign companies with an online presence have voiced concern about the sweeping scope of the law and the power it could give law enforcement authorities, as well as the requirement that they set up offices and store data locally.

The Financial Times - December 12, 2018