In times of a pandemic, tourism needs to take measures so that its cities do not suffer even more. One of the most curious cases is that of Venice, Italy, which announced in September 2021 that it now tracks “every person who sets foot in the city of the lagoon” by cell phone, according to the definition used by the Reuters news agency.

According to the agency, Venice uses 468 cameras, a cell phone tracking system and several optical sensors to monitor tourists and thus distinguish residents from visitors and Italians from foreigners, where they are coming from and where they are going. and how fast they are moving.

These cameras are controlled and installed at the police headquarters in Venice, and the devices take a picture every 15 minutes of how crowded the city is. They also track how many gondolas there are in the canal, whether the boats are speeding and whether the waters rise to dangerous levels. This data helps the authorities enforce new rules for foreigners present in the city.

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“I expect protests, lawsuits, and everything else, but I have a duty to make this city livable for those who inhabit it and also for those who want to visit it,” Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro told reporters.

The use of cameras and the tracking system are part of Venice's attempt to limit the number of tourists at any given time in an effort to combat the negative effect of excessive tourism on the city.

So the city plans to make all visitors, tourists or not, book their visit in advance, pay an entrance fee between US$ 3.50 and US$ 12 (R$ 19.40 and R$ 66'52), depending on the weather season. of the visit, and enter the city by electronic turnstiles.

City officials also monitor visitors' every move using hundreds of surveillance cameras that were originally installed to monitor the city for crime and reckless boaters on the canals. But they are now used to track visitors so authorities can locate crowds they want to disperse and monitor movements.

In the city's control room, authorities study visitors' phone data to track their age, gender, country of origin and location. Surveillance cameras follow tourists' movements so authorities can track their journey through Venice.


Photo: Antonia Felipe / Unsplash

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

Phone data will be used to track crowds and adjust fees for airport-style entrance gates on busy days. The proposed fines for entering the city could be as high as ten euros (R$ 64.03) a day and tourists would have to enter using the turnstiles.

Another important reason for extensive tracking is to find out how many tourists are day trippers. These are believed to cost little time and money and are an important group of visitors that the authorities would like to target with the new fines.

The city's mayor, Luigi Brugnano, said his aim is to make the city more livable for Venetians. Tourists in Venice have been described as a “plague” as the city struggles with extreme crowding issues, sky-high rents due to Airbnbs and pollution from cruise ships.

The extreme tracking of people by city officials has raised fears among data and privacy experts.

Luca Corsato, data manager in Venice, said he is not aware of any other city that uses tracking so extensively. “Giving the idea that everyone who enters is labeled and grouped is dangerous.”

In response to privacy fears, Venice officials said all data tracked is collected anonymously. Even so, the Venetians were undecided on tracking, on planned entrance gates and on cargoes into the city.

One waiter, Cristiano Padovese, opined: “I don't like the idea of being constantly monitored. But if it can help to eliminate overtourism, then why not?”

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

Giorgia Santuzzo, a retired worker at a glass chandelier factory, 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 the plans are a ploy or ploy to keep the city dependent on tourists, rather than supporting young residents through jobs or housing schemes. It is also thought that the city may be trying to cater exclusively to the wealthier tourists who can spend the night in Venice.

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