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Tracking devices sold, used openly in Vietnam amid privacy concerns

Sunday, August 21, 2016, 13:04 GMT+7
Tracking devices sold, used openly in Vietnam amid privacy concerns
This caricature says it is against the law to use tracking devices in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, tracking devices are being sold openly, allowing users to trace the location of another person without permission, particularly doubtful wives seeking the inside scoop on their husbands.

“Do you want to know exactly where your husband is and who he is talking to? Do you want to know if your children are currently in class or at gaming centers? Our smart tracking device will help you,” reads a post on a Facebook page that has received over 2,000 orders for the tracking device.

The tracking devices being advertised cover a wide spectrum of quality, with prices ranging from a few hundred thousand VND for a cheap product up to 10 million VND for a high-end tracker. (US$1 = VND22,000)

Customers are typically asked to pay in cash upon delivery, which can be the same day or take three to five days from when the order is placed, depending on the store.

Most Facebook pages that sell the device have a customer service department to resolve customer problems and assist customers in using the high-tech stuff.

Reporters from Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper ordered a tracking device from a Facebook page advertising the product.

Three days after the order was placed, a small package containing the tracking device, smaller than a matchbox, arrived. Following instructions, the reporters inserted a SIM card with registration for 3G service in the tracking device and texted a message, which read “DW,” to the number of that SIM card.

A minute later, they received a link to a Chinese website called Gpsui.net, which displayed the location of the device on a map.

In addition to being able to track locations, this tiny device can also operate as a recorder.

Calling the number of the SIM card installed in the device allows users to hear sounds from the surrounding environment.

Abusing the device

The device was initially used to manage the search for lost property, but was quickly adopted by jealous wives and competitive businessmen and businesswomen.

According to T., an online salesperson, 80 percent of the customers are women who buy the device to track their husbands and boyfriends.

The device is also used for other purposes, such as tracing a business competitor’s location or settling personal hostility.

N.T.T.L., a resident of Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City, almost lost her marriage when she installed the device on her husband’s phone after perceiving strange “signs” from him.

When her husband discovered the device, he felt insulted and asked for a divorce.

H., also living in Tan Binh District, spent VND1 million on a tracking device and gathered an entire army to catch her husband in a hostel, only to realize that the tracking device was not with her husband.

Illegal under the law

An official from Ho Chi Minh City Police Department said that since tracking devices are not under business sectors that require supervision in order to ensure social order, they can be sold openly by businesses, as long as their origins and paperwork are legitimate.

Lawyer Nguyen Nguyen Thy argued that under current laws, a normal citizen cannot install a tracking device on another person without that person’s permission.

Wives and husbands cannot track their spouses’ locations without permission, and the same applies to parents and their children.

Those behaviors amount to an intrusion on privacy, which, depending each case, can warrant a maximum criminal punishment of two years in prison.

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