Google Street View ignites mini-protest over damn dam project

Google Street View’s latest wrong turn in Thailand had the Mountain View mapmaker straying into international incident territory, says the Associated Press.

The wire service reports that about 20 villagers in Sa-eab, about 385 miles north of Bankok, blocked the path of a camera-toting Google car out to get photos to go with its mapping service.

You know how these things go. Big, American ideas. Small, remote villages. Sometimes what seems like a great idea to a global tech company, looks slightly off to those halfway around the world.

It seems there’s been a dam controversy (damn shame) in Sa-eab for some years now. The villagers have made it clear they don’t want a dam and some in town assumed the Google car was a ruse by project proponents to get some surveying done.

Local press reports say the villagers interrogated the car’s driver and then “took him to a temple where they made him swear on a statue of Buddha that he was not working for the damn project,” according to the AP.

After that, it was all good and the villagers offered an apology, the AP says.

“”(We) apologize to the official, to Google, as well as to the Thai people throughout the nation and to the citizens of the world,’ the villagers’ representatives wrote. They explained that they were ‘extremely worried and there had been so many repeated cases that convinced the villagers to believe someone was trying to survey the area in disguise.'”

As for Google, they say, hey, these things happen. In an email to the Associated Press, regional communications manager Taj Meadows put it this way:

“Embarking on new projects, we sometimes encounter unexpected challenges, and Street View has been no exception,” Google’s Meadows said in an email, adding that “Street View abides by Thailand’s local laws, and only features imagery taken on public property.”

That would appear to be the end of it. Now Google can go back to dealing with complaints about cases in which Street View vehicles have vacuumed up all sorts of personal information via Wi-Fi along with photos of the neighborhood.

(Photo of Street View car in Racine, Wisc. by the Associated Press)


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  • Mauricio

    Reverse ploy to buy time to hide a military base