Venice is Monitoring Tourists’ Movements Via Their Own Mobile Phones

During its bustling carnival period, running from February 8 through 25, officials in Venice have begun using signals off the mobile phones of people passing through the city to gain insight into visitor volume in certain densely packed areas.

According to Lonely Planet, tourism councilor Paola Mar stated that local authorities had deemed it necessary to accurately monitor the flow of visitors to Venice, which struggles daily with throngs of tourists that cause overcrowding.

The historic UNESCO World Heritage city is among the world’s most visited and has been struggling for some years to handle the plague of overtourism that threatens to swallow it. Roughly 30 million tourists descend upon Venice annually, translating to 60,000 visitors each day, as compared to the 55,000 locals who still reside in its historic center.

34 cameras have been installed along some of the city’s busiest streets to detect passersby, supposedly with the ability to distinguish children from adults and without monitoring people’s faces.

Special sensors are said to have the ability to intercept mobile phone data that indicates where the devices’ owners originate from and the duration of their stays in Venice. City officials said that all of this is being carried out “in absolute respect for privacy” and in order to form a clearer picture as to the numbers of people passing through each area.

Addressing the local media, Mar explained how the tracking system, using Wi-Fi, cameras and sensors, will transmit data to a control room every .25 seconds. She said that it will eventually allow analysts to, “predict at what time pedestrians will arrive at a certain critical point and divert them to another area in advance, so as not to clog or block pedestrian traffic.”

This new measure, which has apparently been in the works for a while now, is only the latest of several policies Venice is implementing in an attempt to curb the sheer volume of visitors that overwhelms the city, its infrastructure and the locals.

The Italian government began rerouting giant cruise ships to ports closer to the mainland as part of a plan to gradually ban cruise ships from entering the Grand Canal after a cruise liner smashed into a Venetian dock and river-cruise ship last year.

There’s also a new measure scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2020, which places a tax on day-trippers to the City of Canals, a fee that’s entirely separate from the overnight tax that those staying in hotels pay as part of their accommodations rates.

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