The media has extensively covered China’s widespread usage of cameras and facial recognition technologies. Now, these are the world’s most-surveilled cities.
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It might surprise you to learn that the worldwide urban population did not surpass the rural population until 2007. With roughly 3.3 billion each, the two groups were roughly split in half at that time.
Over 55% of people now reside in urban areas, and by 2050, that number is predicted to rise to 68%. Many of the biggest cities in the world now house tens of millions of people as a result of this trend.
Governments, companies, and families have all placed innumerable security cameras as a result of this astounding density for a variety of reasons, including preventing crime. The most surveilled cities in the world were visualized by Visual Capitalist’s Marcu Lu using data from a recent report from Comparitech to help understand the scope of this surveillance.
The List (Excluding China)
These are the top 10 cities in the world in terms of surveillance, barring China for the time being.
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India, the second-most populous nation in the world, is home to the top four cities. The nation’s efforts to lessen crimes against women are mostly reliant on surveillance cameras.
Cities from a number of nations are listed farther down the list. One of them is Russia, which has increased the number of security cameras it uses recently. Human rights advocates are concerned that facial recognition technology might be used as an instrument of oppression given the nation’s history of human rights crimes.
Los Angeles, the sole American city on the list, is home to some of the wealthiest towns and neighborhoods in the nation. That includes Beverly Hills, which the Los Angeles Times reports has more than 2,000 cameras for its 32,500 residents. That amounts to approximately 62 cameras per 1,000 people, which places Beverly Hills at #2 globally if it were ranked separately.
Surveillance in China
According to IHS Markit, there will be more than 1 billion deployed security cameras worldwide by 2021. The company also thinks 54% of these cameras are in China.
How many cameras there are in each Chinese city is impossible to determine owing to the lack of transparency. However, if we estimate that China has 540 million cameras and split that number by its 1.46 billion population, we may logically conclude that there are 373 cameras for every 1,000 people (figures rounded).
This method has a flaw in that it makes the unrealistic assumption that everyone in China lives in a city. According to the most recent World Bank statistics, nearly 500 million people—or 37% of China’s population—live in rural areas.
With this in consideration, a Tier 1+ Chinese city (such as Shanghai) is likely to have many more cameras per 1,000 residents than 373.
More About China
The media has extensively covered China’s widespread usage of cameras and facial recognition technologies. These networks support the nation’s social credit system, which grants local governments a previously unheard-of level of control over their citizens.
China’s camera networks, for instance, can be used to confirm ATM withdrawals, grant entry to houses, and even publicly humiliate people for infractions as petty as jaywalking.
To Western listeners, this can sound like a dystopian nightmare, but to Chinese people, it is largely a wonderful thing. 80% of participants in a 2018 survey of 2,209 individuals expressed support for social credit systems.
Consider watching this video from The Economist to understand more about monitoring in Chinese cities as it examines the advantages and drawbacks of extensive governmental control: