Fear of being tracked - VnExpress Digitization

Minh Thu, 28 years old in Ho Chi Minh City, discovered a tracking device mounted under his motorbike after a long time suspecting that he was being followed.

Minh Thu, an office worker in District 1, said that since Tet, she has always felt insecure as if she was being watched.She changed her phone, stopped using a smartwatch, and turned off GPS, but occasionally her ex-boyfriend still texted her to tell her where she went out and when she would return after work.While taking the car to be washed, the mechanic accidentally saw a small device mounted under the chassis."I asked a friend to check and found out that this is a sim card locator, which not only tracks location but can also hear surrounding conversations," Thu said. Personal GPS tracker

In early March, reader Hung Minh also shared the feeling of being followed. Even though he carefully checked his phone, he still couldn't find any suspicious applications."Every time I park my car in a shop or go to karaoke, my wife calls me to ask. This happens so many times that I think the phone has been installed with software or the car has a GPS tracker installed on it," he said."I quit using a smartwatch, switched to a mechanical watch, and uninstalled apps related to positioning on my phone, but I still don't feel secure."

In a March 8 survey on VnExpress, 41% of the 2,000 participants said they suspected they were being followed but could not verify.33% said they had been tracked by location.

Positioning devices are widely sold online

Location tracking devices are widely sold on an e-commerce site.Photo: Khuong Nha

On e-commerce platforms, when entering the keyword "locating device", users are suggested hundreds of stores, selling products priced from a few tens of thousands of VND to several million VND.Some device advertisements "can track adulterers, accurately locating each house number and alley".

"On average, we sell more than a dozen units per day. Users mainly buy them to attach to cars and motorbikes. The most popular model costs more than 900,000 VND," said a seller.

These devices are often the size of two fingers and operate wirelessly with a commercially available SIM card.They are advertised as waterproof, with 5-day battery life, and magnets to attach to the car.Users can connect to the application to update location, monitor movement speed, and filter noise to hear surrounding conversations.

Ngoc Han, owner of a store specializing in selling navigation devices, said that AirTag models with speaker cutouts are the most purchased.AirTag is an accessory launched by Apple in 2021, connecting to iPhone via Bluetooth to help find objects.However, the device is controversial when many people use it to follow others because of its compact design like a coin, easy to place anywhere.

AirTag has a built-in speaker, making a sound every time the iPhone is near, announcing connection or separation from the paired device."Cutting the speaker is at the request of the customer who wants to monitor without being exposed," Han said.

AirTag cut speakers are for sale on e-commerce sites.Photo: Khuong Nha

Police in many parts of the world have issued warnings about criminals misusing devices like AirTag to track victims.According to experts, the fact that this device is widely sold online is alarming."It's not sold as a spy or snooping tool, but simply as a piece of technology. Sometimes, buyers think they're not doing anything wrong, they're simply using a piece of technology," The Verge quoted Adam Dodge, CEO of EndTab, an expert in the field of technology-enabled harassment analysis.

Buying, selling, and using devices to track others is illegal

In Vietnam, it is illegal to use devices to spy on others, even family members.Lawyer Ha Hai, Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, said that using location tools directly violates each individual's right to have their privacy protected by the State.In Clause 1, Article 159 of the 2015 Penal Code, amended and supplemented in 2017, violators may be disciplined or administratively sanctioned, with fines ranging from 20,000,000 VND to 50,000 VND. 000 VND or non-custodial reform for up to 3 years.

According to lawyer Hai, people who sell positioning devices for the purpose of tracking others can also be prosecuted under the 2009 Telecommunications Law, which stipulates that phone tapping is a prohibited act.

UbicaciĆ³n de bloqueo de GPS "Many legal documents have been issued to protect personal and corporate privacy, as well as prevent the transport, sale and use of hidden recording, eavesdropping and positioning devices for malicious purposes. Trading in this type of goods can be subject to administrative penalties of up to 200 million VND, or even criminal prosecution," the lawyer noted.