Mobile users cringe at new photo ID requirements in Vietnam

By Ngoc Tuyen   June 20, 2017 | 11:52 pm PT
Mobile users cringe at new photo ID requirements in Vietnam
A Vinaphone staff takes photo of a subscriber. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Tu
Many subscribers say they have already provided copies of their ID cards, so why is the new regulation necessary?

Mobile subscribers in Vietnam are objecting to a government regulation which requires them to provide a portrait photo of themselves when they register with a provider to clarify their personal information in an effort to get rid of spam messages.

Under the amended telecommunications law, existing subscribers will have until next April to furnish network providers with photos.

After the deadline, networks will be fined if they are caught offering services to users who provide false information.

MobiFone and VinaPhone, two of the biggest mobile service providers in Vietnam, have already started taking photos of new subscribers. Viettel, the country's largest provider, said it will start taking photos of new users from next month.

A VinaPhone representative told VnExpress that the company has faced strong opposition from customers, with many refusing to provide a photo.

A MobileFone staff member in Hanoi also said that customers simply don't want to sit down for a photo.

Registering new customers is already a headache, and obtaining photos from existing users will be a much bigger problem.

VinaPhone said it is planning to offer incentives to current customers who provide the company with photos, while Viettel said it is still working on a solution to deal with existing customers.

Last week, Duong, the owner of a mobile subscription service run by MobiFone in Hanoi, received a text from the company asking her for a photo.

Duong said she was surprised as she has been using MobiFone for nearly 20 years and has already provided the company with her personal information.

“I have already submitted a copy of my ID with a photo on it but the staff at MobiFone said the photo isn't clear enough and they need a new one,” she said.

When she learned that operators will bar outgoing calls after 15 days and disconnect after 30 days if subscribers refuse to submit their photos, Duong's first reaction was that it could be a breach of contract. She was also concerned about the security of her personal information.

Many people echo Duong's opinion.

VnExpress readers Hoang Manh and Phan Khang asked why telecom firms need new photos when they already have copies of their customers' ID cards.

Others simply said the whole idea is a waste of time, and questioned whether mobile operators will be able to protect their personal information.

The regulation, which is aimed at eliminating spam messages, states that telecom companies will be fined VND30 million ($1.320) to VND50 million for leaking customers' personal information, and VND50-70 million for trading that information, according to the Ministry of Information and Communications.

Nguyen Chien, vice chairman of the Vietnam Bar Association, said the regulation risking breaking contracts signed by existing subscribers if they are cut off for not providing a photo.

This requirement should only be applied for new subscribers and existing subscribers who have not provided enough personal information, he suggested.

Official data show millions of spam messages are sent in Vietnam every day. Most of them come from prepaid phone accounts that are unregistered or registered with false information.

The messages are not only annoying but dangerous as they can be used by criminals and terrorists, according to the ministry.

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