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First things first! A new research proves what the world always knew. That cities in China have the most number of prying electronic eyes in the world. What comes as news though is that our Indian cities such as Hyderabad and Delhi too have a large number of watchful eyes in terms of public CCTV cameras.
The survey analysis by Comparitech highlights the fact that 18 out of the 20 cities having the maximum number of CCTVs are in China, while others such as London and Hyderabad too emerged among the top-20 most populous cities with the maximum electronic surveillance. While London took third position in this list, our own Hyderabad was a modest 16th.
Hyderabad in the Top-20
While London had 627,727 CCTV installations that worked out to 67.4 cameras per 1000 people, this number stood at nearly 30 cameras per 1000 people in Hyderabad which boasted more than 300,000 units in the city. In the case of Delhi, the survey located 429,500 cameras that accounted for an average of 14.2 units per 1000 people.
In comparison, Beijing in China had 1.15 million cameras surveying 20.4 million people which amounted to having more than 56 cameras for every 1000 citizens. Ironically, heavily populated cities in India such as Mumbai (0.48 per 1000) and Kolkata (0.93 per 1000) were ill-equipped to track even traffic as they had only 9,800 and 13,800 CCTVs respectively.
Why CCTV Surveillance?
The factors leading cities across the world to seek CCTV surveillance are many though among the most obvious reasons related to crime prevention, traffic monitoring, industrial operations of environments including those not suitable for humans to the more mundane activities such as tracking security around major installations.
The digital age has boosted the prevalence of CCTV surveillance. Cameras are getting better and cheaper, while live video streams can be remotely accessed, stored on the internet, and passed around. The adoption of face recognition technology makes it possible for both public and private entities to instantly check the identity of anyone who passes by a CCTV camera, says the Comparitech report authored by privacy advocate and VPN expert Paul Bischoff.
The Research Methodology
The report, which is based on data collected from the world’s 150 most populated cities, found that there were 770 million cameras currently in use, of which 54% were in China. However, it was intriguing to find that the correlation between the number of public CCTV cameras and the crime or safety rate was miniscule.
Comparitech researchers collated data resources and reports, including government reports, police websites, and news articles, to get some idea of the number of CCTV cameras in use in 150 major cities across the globe. We focused primarily on public CCTV—cameras used by government entities such as law enforcement, the report said.
The Chinese Checkers
Late last year, IHS Markit released a report that was published in the Wall Street Journal. In it the market research firm predicted over a billion surveillance cameras in the world by 2021, of which more than half would be installed in China. If their population stays at 1.4 billion, this could mean a camera for every two Chinese!
In recent times, Beijing has been in the eye of the storm for snooping at data, which resulted in the United States and Britain banning Huawei. However, when it comes to surveillance, China has fervently adopted facial recognition as a measure to restrict the right to freedom. Instances came to fore during a recent spate of protests in Hong Kong.