Venice turns into 'Big Brother' as city adds system to track tourists 'minute by minute'


The cameras were originally installed to monitor Venice for crime and reckless boaters on the city’s canals. But now they are used to track visitors so officials can spot crowds they want to disperse and monitor movements.

In the city’s control room, officials study phone data from visitors to track their age, sex, country of origin and location.

The surveillance cameras follow tourists’ movements so officials can track their journey through Venice.

Simone Venturini, one of the city’s top tourism officials, told the New York Times: “We know minute by minute how many people are passing and where they are going. We have total control over the city.”

The phone data will be used to track crowds and adjust fees for proposed airport style entry gates on busy days.

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Proposed fines to enter the city could be up to ten euros (£8.54) per day and tourists would have to enter through the gates.

Another key motive for the extensive tracking is to find out how many tourists are day trippers.

Day trippers are thought to spend little time and money in Venice and are a key visitor group the officials would like to target with the new fines.

The city’s mayor, Luigi Brugnano, has said his aim is to make the city more liveable for Venetian locals.

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Tourists in Venice have been described as a “plague” as the city struggles with extreme crowd problems, very high rents due to Airbnbs and pollution from cruises.

Paolo Bettio, who heads the company that handles the data, said of the problems: “Either we are pragmatic or we live in the world of fairytales.”

The city officials’ extreme tracking of people has aroused fears among data and privacy experts.

Luca Corsato, a data manager in Venice, said he was unaware of any other city using tracking so extensively.

He said: “Giving the idea that everyone who enters is labelled and herded is dangerous.”

In answer to privacy fears, Venice officials have said all of the tracked data is gathered anonymously.

Venetian locals were torn on the tracking, planned entry gates and charges to the city.

A waiter, Cristiano Padovese, said: “I don’t like the idea of being constantly monitored. But if it can help skim the tourism, then why not.”

Others have argued that the entry gates would turn the city into a cage or an open-air “Big Brother”.

Giorgia Santuzzo, a retired glass chandelier factory worker, said: “I would feel even more that I live in a city that is not a city. Should I make my friends pay when they visit?”

Some locals think that the plans are a gimmick or a ploy to keep the city reliant on tourists rather than supporting young residents through job or housing schemes.

It is also thought the city may be trying to exclusively serve wealthier tourists who can afford to stay overnight in Venice.



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