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Ranked: The World’s Most Surveillance Cities

This may come as a surprise, but it was not until 2007 that the global urban population surpassed the rural population. At the time, the two groups were almost 50/50 split, with about 3.3 billion people each.

Today, the percentage of people living in urban areas has grown to more than 55%and is expected to reach 68% by 2050. Due to this trend, many of the world’s largest cities have become home to tens of millions of people.

In response to such incredible density, governments, businesses, and homes have installed countless security cameras for various purposes, including protection against crime. To understand the scale of this surveillance, we have taken data from a recent report by Comparitech to visualize the most surveilled cities in the world.

The List (Excluding China)

Excluding China for the time being, these are the 10 most surveilled cities in the world.

City Population number of cameras cameras by
1000 people
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณIndore, India 3.2 million 200,600 63
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณHyderabad, India 10.5 million 440,299 42
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ Delhi, India 16.3 million 436,600 27
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ Chennai, India 11.5 million 282,126 25
๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Singapore 6.0M 108,981 18
๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Moscow, Russia 12.6 million 213,000 17
๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ถ Baghdad, Iraq 7.5 million 120,000 sixteen
๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ London, United Kingdom 9.5 million 127,373 13
๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Saint Petersburg, Russia 5.5 million 70,000 13
๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Los Angeles, United States 3.9 million 34,959 9

rounded figures

The four main cities belong to India, which is the second largest country in the world by population. Surveillance cameras are playing an important role in the country’s efforts to reduce crimes against women.

Further down the list are cities from a variety of countries. one of these is Russia, which has expanded its use of surveillance cameras in recent years. Given the country’s history of human rights violations, activists are concerned that facial recognition technology could become a tool of oppression.

The only American city on the list is the Angels, which contains some of the wealthiest neighborhoods and municipalities in the country. That includes Beverly Hills, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, has more than 2,000 cameras for its population of 32,500. That translates to about 62 cameras per 1,000 people, which means that Beverly Hills would end up at No. 2 in the world rankings if included as a separate entity.

Surveillance in China

IHS Markit estimates that as of 2021, there are more than 1 billion surveillance cameras installed around the world. The firm also believes that 54% of these cameras are in China.

Due to limited transparency, it is impossible to determine how many cameras there really are in each Chinese city. However, if we assume that China has 540 million cameras and divide that by its population of 1.46 billion, we can reasonably say that there are 373 cameras per 1,000 people (rounded figures).

One limitation of this approach is that it assumes that everyone in China lives in a city, which is far from the truth. The most recent figures from the World Bank suggest that 37% of China’s population is rural, equivalent to more than 500 million people.

With this in mind, the number of cameras per 1,000 people in a tier 1+ Chinese city (eg Shanghai) is likely to be much higher than 373.

More about China

The expansive use of cameras and facial recognition technology in China has been widely documented in the media. These networks enable the country’s social credit program, which gives local governments an unprecedented amount of oversight over their citizens.

For example, China’s camera networks can be used to verify ATM withdrawals, allow access to homes, and even publicly shame people for minor offenses like jaywalking.

This may sound like a dystopian nightmare to Western audiences, but according to Chinese citizens, it’s mostly a good thing. In a 2018 survey of 2,209 citizens, 80% of respondents approved of social credit systems.

If you’re interested in learning more about surveillance in Chinese cities, consider this video from The Economist, which explores the opportunities and dangers of comprehensive state control.

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