For many Romans, these are jittery times. For the first time in a generation, the mayor of the Eternal City, once a left-wing stronghold, is on the political right. Gianni Alemanno, a former neo-Fascist, swept to power late last month on a tough-on-crime platform that included bulldozing encampments of Roma people, expelling supposedly violent foreigners and installing London-like surveillance cameras around town.
So a group of Romans can be forgiven on Wednesday afternoon for assuming the worst when a black car sporting a massive, rotating video camera, slowly drove down Viale Trastevere, a busy thoroughfare, filming everybody in sight. On cue, pedestrians shuffled off the street and into bars, out of sight of the offending vehicle, no doubt wondering if these are the new intrusions that must be endured after a sudden shift to the right.
Nope, it wasn’t state surveillance – it was Google’s initiative to bring European street view imagery to Google Maps, as it already did for major cities in the US. As opposed to typical state surveillance cameras, Google’s street views are far from being real-time, though (in 2008 anyway).
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