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Wednesday,  Sep 20,2017,19:58 (GMT+7)

Subscribers’ vexation

Son Nguyen
Friday,  Jun 23,2017,09:50 (GMT+7)
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Subscribers’ vexation

Son Nguyen

Enhancing the effectiveness of State management for the benefit of the society is a justifiable goal, but it is also generally agreed that even the right end cannot justify the means. When the means employed to achieve a righteous end causes public disturbance, tough reactions and protests are understandable. That can be the case of a new rule requiring all mobile phone subscribers to have their portraits submitted to mobile carriers to facilitate State management.

Angry voices are heard in local media these days, when the Ministry of Information and Communications orders mobile carriers to send digitalized data of subscribers, including their portraits, to the ministry within one year. Those subscribers who fail to have their photos submitted will have their mobile services suspended, in line with the Government’s Decree 49/2017, effective from April 24, 2017.

Local media is flooded with questions as to whether such a demand is logical or not, what the cost-effectiveness of the new rule is, and why the disturbance is unnecessarily imposed on not one or two, but tens of millions of people nationwide.

Under the decree, all mobile carriers will have to take pictures of those people subscribing to new mobile services after Aril 24, 2017, which is quite an easy job for them. For those people who have subscribed mobile phone services prior to this date, carriers will have 12 months to complete the required data.

Such a rule triggers public outrage, as it “causes difficulties for users and is not necessary,” says Sai Gon Giai Phong. The newspaper explains that when subscribing to mobile services, users already have to submit the scanned copies of their identity cards and other personal data with photos included in such papers, so any extra requirement for them to add portraits is a waste of time and money.

In explanations to local media, the Telecommunications Department under the Ministry of Information and Communications gives various important reasons to assert that adding portraits to subscribers’ data is of utmost importance for the benefit of the society.

Le Thi Ngoc Mo, deputy director of the Telecommunications Department, says in Dan Viet that full data of subscribers is critically necessary to safeguard national security and social order and safety, and protect the legitimate rights and interests of the people. She refers to the practice in some other countries such as the U.S., India and Pakistan, where subscribers have to submit not only photos, but also their fingerprints or even blood samples, all to ensure national security.

Asked about the data previously collected from subscribers’ legal papers, Mo says such personal data, and even copies of identity cards of subscribers available in databases or mobile carriers, can be falsified. A report from the Telecommunications Department, Mo says, shows that as of early 2016, data from over 80 million subscribers out of the total 120 million subscribers were incorrect, as identity cards could be forged beyond the recognition of mobile service agents.

“Without the corrective measures, certain subscribers can make unidentified phone calls or messages intended to cheat or harass others, send spam or even poisonous information beyond the control of management agencies,” she is quoted in Nguoi Lao Dong as saying. As such, the new requirement is meant to verify the personal status of each and every subscriber, according to Mo of the Telecommunications Department.

Such an argument is challenged by the widespread public.

Nguoi Lao Dong, quoting several people, says that if data including photos and fingerprints from legal papers like identity cards can be forged, then photos or portraits can face the same fate. “If mobile service agents can send fake information into the system, they could do the same with portraits,” the paper quotes a reader as saying. Therefore, the new rule only spells trouble, leading to a waste of time and money for both enterprises and the people.

As of the end of 2016, there had had some 140 million subscribers nationwide, according to Thanh Nien. To implement the new rule, all these subscribers will have to come to mobile service agents to have portraits taken, which is impossible due to such a huge number, economist Nguyen Minh Phong says in the paper.

In addition, extra costs will be huge. Each mobile carrier has over 1,000 agents, and if such agents have to acquire new equipment to conform to the rule, then cost will be hundreds of billions of Vietnam dong, says Thanh Nien.

National Assembly deputy Luu Binh Nhuong, speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the ongoing NA sitting in Hanoi, estimates the total social cost may amount to trillions of Vietnam dong due to the new rule, according to the news site of the Voice of Vietnam radio station.

Echoing the point, Lawyer Truong Thanh Duc with the law firm Basico says in Thanh Nien that if each subscriber spends just a few minutes to implement the rule, the total social resource spent on this move will be tremendous, let alone costs borne by enterprises. “Why did the State agency before issuing any new regulation fail to estimate the benefits in relation with the expenses? If the expenses outweigh the benefits, the rule should not be implemented,” he is quoted as saying.

Bui Trinh, an economic expert, also affirms the new rule is troublesome. Any policy before being issued must be weighed in terms of pros and cons, from reality in the society to possible impacts. “Don’t let it repeat the case of a rule by the Ministry of Transport to force drivers to change their driving licenses from paper to plastic, which was later dismissed by the Ministry of Justice as illegal,” says Trinh in Thanh Nien.

Nguyen Ngoc Son, dean of the Economy-Law Faculty of Ton Duc Thang University, says in Thanh Nien that stringent requirements for telecommunications already exist, but unidentified SIM cards for mobile phones are still awash, which is the fault of mobile carriers in their management, while subscribers are not to blame. It is the responsibility of such carriers as well as State management agencies to correct their faulty practices, rather than to place a new burden on users. The first step should be to deal with fake subscribers, singled out to be 80 million as stated by the deputy director of the Telecommunications Department early on, rather than to choose the easier way of forcing all subscribers to redo their contracts with carriers by adding portraits. Such an approach will only increase the subscribers’ vexation.

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