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Vietnamese ministry considers U-turn over profile picture requirement for mobile users

Vietnamese ministry considers U-turn over profile picture requirement for mobile users

Wednesday, October 03, 2018, 17:31 GMT+7

Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications, which in April required that mobile users have to provide a portrait photo to legally own a SIM card, has called on the government to ditch the regulation, saying the requirement has proven problematic only after five month in effect.

According to a government decree effective since April, mobile phone users will have to provide not only a scanned copy of their ID card but also a portrait photo to legally register for a new SIM card.

The regulation, the idea of the communications ministry, applies to both prepaid and postpaid subscribers of all Vietnamese mobile carriers, with the number of affected subscriptions estimated at nearly 120 million.

At that time, SIM owners had to rush to transaction stores of network providers, then to their website and respective apps to follow the rule.

Only five months after the regulation came into effect, the ministry has suggested that the government scrap that requirement in a draft amendment to the decree.

‘Experience is the best teacher’

Requiring users to register for a mobile account with accurate personal information plus their portraits is meant to help customers protect their mobile phone numbers and allow the network carriers to better manage their data and fight against improperly-registered SIM cards, according to regulators.

However, subscribers have questioned regulators as to why mobile carriers still need that extra photo when they have already submitted a scanned copy of their ID card, which includes a photo, during their SIM registration.

Mobile users also think that mobile carriers’ storing their photo is a breach of privacy.

The rule has caused people to skip work to visit transaction spots of the mobile companies to have their photos taken.

Even the communications ministry now admits that it is impossible to check if subscribers provide the correct information, as Vietnam does not have a complete electronic citizen identification database system to crosscheck the data obtained by mobile carriers and those collected by state agencies.

The electronic citizen identification database system has only been implemented in 13 provinces across the country with about 11 million IDs collected, and the database will not be complete by 2028 at the soonest, according to data released in August by the Ministry of Public Security.

At present, there are only 16 out of 147 countries in the world where the governments require subscribers’ information, allowing network providers to connect to government information databases, according to a report by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) in March.

A leader of the Vietnam Telecommunications Authority acknowledged that the communications ministry will continue to face criticism if it keeps the ‘profile photo’ requirement.

By the end of September, it is estimated that some 38 million subscribers still refused to submit their portrait photos to their mobile carriers.

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Bao Anh / Tuoi Tre News

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