Thai Villagers Mistake Google Mapper for Government Spy

They weren't convinced otherwise until the driver swore in front of a Buddha statue that he works for the technology empire

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Tobias Schwarz / Reuters

Turns out there are still a few corners of the earth where Google’s Street View cameras aren’t just unwelcome, they’re also unheard of. Earlier this month, Thai villagers in the northern province of Phrae detained a Google driver who was recording images for Google’s online maps. The villagers weren’t upset about Google’s privacy policy, however; instead, they mistook him for a government worker surveying the area for an unwanted dam project.

A local paper reported last week that some 20 residents of Ban Sa-iap village — located about 385 miles north of Bangkok — surrounded the driver’s car, escorted him to a local office for interrogation, then brought him to Wat Don Chai, where they made him swear on a statute of Buddha that he was not a spy for the dam project, according to the Associated Press. Eventually, the driver convinced the disgruntled crowd that he was not behind the controversial dam.

News website the Prachatai reported that the villagers released the Google employee and later apologized for the mistake. This is not the first time Google has run into trouble with its Street View initiative, which also picks up Wi-fi signals. In June Britain’s data regulator threatened court action if the company did not erase personal data it received while recording for the project. 

Thailand is the 35th addition nation to be photographed for Google’s Street View.

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