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Ranking: The most monitored cities in the world

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

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

In response to such incredible density, governments, businesses and households have installed a myriad of security cameras for a variety of purposes, including crime prevention. To understand the extent of this oversight, we took data from a recent report by the authors Comparitech visualize the most monitored cities in the world.

List (excluding China)

Excluding China for now, these are the 10 most monitored cities in the world.

City Population Number of cameras Cameras per
1,000 people
🇮🇳 Indore, India 3.2M 200,600 63
🇮🇳 Hyderabad, India 10.5M 440,299 42
🇮🇳 Delhi, India 16.3M 436,600 27
🇮🇳 Chennai, India 11.5M 282,126 25
🇸🇬 Singapore 6.0M 108,981 18
🇷🇺 Moscow, Russia 12.6M 213,000 17
🇮🇶 Baghdad, Iraq 7.5M 120,000 16
🇬🇧 London, UK 9.5M 127,373 13
🇷🇺 Saint Petersburg, Russia 5.5M 70,000 13
🇺🇸 Los Angeles, USA 3.9M 34,959 9

Figures rounded

The four largest cities all belong India, which is the second largest country in the world by population. Surveillance cameras play a major role in the country’s efforts to reduce crimes against women.

Further on the list are cities from various countries. One of these is Russia, which has expanded the use of surveillance cameras in recent years. Given the country record human rights abuses, activists are concerned that facial recognition technology could become a tool of oppression.

The only American city on the list is Angels, which contains some of the richest settlements and municipalities in the country. That includes Beverly Hills, which according to the Los Angeles Times has over 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 have ended up at #2 in the global rankings if it had been listed as a separate entity.

Surveillance in China

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

Due to limited transparency, it is impossible to determine exactly how many cameras there 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 (figures rounded).

Cameras in China

A limitation of this approach is that it assumes that everyone in China lives in a city, which is far from the reality. The latest data from the World Bank says that 37% of China’s population is rural, which equates to over 500 million people.

With that in mind, the number of cameras per 1,000 people ua Level 1+ Chinese city (eg Shanghai) is probably far higher than 373.

More about China

China’s expansive use of cameras and facial recognition technology has been widely documented in the media. These networks enable dr social credit programwhich 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 infractions such as jaywalking.

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

If you are interested in learning more about surveillance in Chinese cities, consider this video The Economistwhich explores the possibilities and dangers of comprehensive state control.



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