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Ranking: the most watched cities in the world

It may be unexpected, but only in 2007. the world’s urban population has overtaken the rural population. At the time, the two groups were split nearly 50/50, with about 3.3 billion people each.

Today, the percentage of people living in cities has increased to the top 55%and is expected to achieve 68% until 2050 This trend has resulted in tens of millions of people living in many of the world’s largest cities.

In response to this incredible density, governments, businesses and households have installed numerous security cameras for various purposes, including crime prevention. To understand the extent of this oversight, we pulled data from Comparitech’s latest report to visualize the world’s most watched cities.

List (excluding China)

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

City Population Number of cameras Cameras through
1000 people
🇮🇳 Indore, India 3.2 million 200,600 63
🇮🇳 Hyderabad, India 10.5 million 440,299 42
🇮🇳 Delhi, India 16.3 million 436,600 27
🇮🇳 Chennai, India 11.5 million 282 126 25
🇸🇬 Singapore 6.0 million 108,981 18
🇷🇺 Moscow, Russia 12.6 million 213,000 17
🇮🇶 Baghdad, Iraq 7.5 million 120,000 16
🇬🇧 London, UK 9.5 million 127,373 13
🇷🇺 Saint Petersburg, Russia 5.5 million 70,000 13
🇺🇸 Los Angeles, USA 3.9 million 34,959 9

Figures are rounded

The top four cities all belong India, which is the second most populous country in the world. Surveillance cameras play an important role in the country’s efforts to reduce crimes against women.

Below is the list of cities from different countries. One of these is Russia, which has expanded the use of surveillance cameras in recent years. Given the country’s history of human rights abuses, activists worry that facial recognition technology could become a tool of oppression.

The only US city on the list is Los Angeles, which includes some of the country’s richest districts and municipalities. That includes Beverly Hills, which according to the Los Angeles Times has more than 2,000 cameras based on a population of 32,500. That translates to roughly 62 cameras per 1,000 people, which would put Beverly Hills at No. 2 in the world if listed as a separate entity.

Tracking in China

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

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

Cameras in China

A limitation of this approach is that the entire Chinese population lives in cities, which is far from reality. The latest data from the World Bank shows that 37% of China’s population lives in rural areas, which equates to more than 500 million people.

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

More about China

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

China’s camera networks, for example, can be used to monitor ATM withdrawals, allow entry into homes, and even publicly shame people for minor crimes 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 survey of 2209 citizens in 2018 80% respondents supported social credit systems.

If you want to learn more about surveillance in China’s cities, check out this video from The Economist that explores the possibilities and dangers of comprehensive state surveillance.

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