Cities in China are under the heaviest CCTV surveillance in the world, according to a shocking new analysis by UK-based research firm Comparitech.
The country is home to eight of the top 10 most-surveilled cities.
With 2.58 million cameras covering 15.35 million people – equal to one camera for every 6 residents – Chongqing has more surveillance cameras than any other city in the world for its population.
This trumps even Beijing, Shanghai and tech hub Shenzhen.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, China is anticipated to have 626 million CCTV cameras in use by next year.
And by 2022, there will be one public CCTV camera for every two people.
Rounding out the top 10 was London, which ranked 6th with 627,707 cameras covering 9 million residents, and Atlanta, Georgia, which ranked 10th with 7,800 cameras for 501,178 people.
Chongqing has more surveillance cameras than any other city in the world
10 cities with the most surveillance cameras per person:
- Chongqing, China
- Shenzhen, China
- Shanghai, China
- Tianjin, China
- Ji’nan, China
- London, UK
- Wuhan, China
- Guangzhou, China
- Beijing, China
- Atlanta, US
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras can be used for anything from crime prevention and traffic monitoring to keeping an eye on industrial operations after hours.
Cameras embedded with face recognition technology make it possible for both public and private individuals to check the identity of anyone who passes by a CCTV camera.
This, of course, raises issues around the violation of internationally guaranteed rights to privacy.
In accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both collection and use of biometric data should be limited to people found to be involved in wrongdoing, and not broad populations who have no specific link to crime.
In addition, individuals should have the right to know what biometric data the government holds on them.
China’s automated facial recognition systems blatantly violate those standards.
“What we’re seeing is a race to the bottom of privacy among police bureaus in China, with each claiming to be the best and most innovative in carrying out mass surveillance and social control,” Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, told The Guardian.
“These systems are being developed and implemented without meaningful privacy protections against state surveillance.
“The depth, breadth and intrusiveness of the Chinese government’s mass surveillance on its citizens may be unprecedented in modern history.”
What’s more, Comparitech found little correlation between the number of public CCTV cameras and crime or safety.
Looking ahead, there seems to be little sign of cities scaling back surveillance.
“Of all the cities we looked at, the vast majority were increasing their CCTV use or had plans in place to up their surveillance,” Comparitech Editor Paul Bischoff told The Guardian.
“Singapore has plans to install 100,000 facial-recognition cameras on lampposts, Chicago police have asked for 30,000 more, and Moscow intends to have 174,000 by the end of this year.”