Welcome to Atlanta, Georgia. If you’re strolling along Peachtree Street, enjoying the zoo or the botanical garden, catching a Braves game at SunTrust Park, visiting CNN Center or the World of Coca-Cola, or doing just about anything else in town — smile, you’re on candid camera!
It’s unclear how many CCTV security or surveillance cameras there are in the United States today, but the tech research site IHS Markit Technology predicted that their number would reach 62 million by the end of 2016 — up from 33 million just four years earlier.
Another tech research site, Comparitech, has published a list of the world’s most-surveilled cities, comparing the number of cameras — both official and privately owned — in 120 cities worldwide with their populations. The place where the citizenry is most likely to be observed is Chongqing, China, where there are 2,579,890 cameras — 168.03 per 1,000 people.
China, in fact, wins the surveillance contest hands down. Eight of the 10 most-surveilled municipalities are there. The only two that aren’t Chinese are London (in sixth place, with 68.4 cameras per 1,000 inhabitants) and the sole U.S. city in the top 10 — Atlanta, where every 1,000 people are being watched by 15.56 lenses.
According to the state and local news site Route Fifty, the Atlanta Police Department’s Video Integration Center monitors a network of cameras — mostly owned not by the city but by various public and private enterprises — 24 hours a day, every day of the week. Atlanta police sergeant John Chafee told the site that the cameras play a vital role in keeping the city safe, and that there were plans to expand the number of cameras being monitored.
Not everybody loves the idea. The ACLU, for instance, points out that public video surveillance hasn’t proven effective in reducing overall crime levels, that CCTV is susceptible to abuse (including voyeurism and discriminatory targeting), and that there are currently no limits or controls on the use of the cameras. These are the surprising things the U.S. government knows about you.
It is at best uncertain as to whether widespread surveillance contributes to the well-being of cities. Here are the safest cities in the world.