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The world’s most-surveilled cities (comparitech.com)
56 points by cyanbane 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 50 comments



2.6 million cameras in Chongqing!? that number is mind-boggling. In fact it's borderline unbelievable. How could any one organisation possibly use, process or even receive that much data?

I have questions about exactly where this data comes from. Does it include every single camera in the city, eg. security in shops or apartment buildings? Surely they're not linked into the government.

Or are they all supposed to be some kind of "smart" cameras that detect and isolate faces, vehicles etc and then send only some kind of abstracted data back to the mothership? That sounds like the only manageable methodology. It also sounds unbelievably expensive.

This article raises more questions than answers.


The number is enormous, but is inline with the Chinese government figures of 170 million nationally (400 million expected by 2020).

>Or are they all supposed to be some kind of "smart" cameras that detect and isolate faces, vehicles etc

The cameras are part of the "Skynet" (天网) system, which is intended to perform all of those things and a great deal more. It's powered by software from "the world's most valuable AI startup", SenseTime.

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/2165372/how-...

http://paper.people.com.cn/rmzk/html/2017-11/20/content_1825...

https://www.sensetime.com/en/Service/Security_SenseFace.html


data source: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1bKBFiVXNzrgtW95j66Tp...

chongqing planed to have 500k camers in 2011. The auther believes that number grows 20% YOY. So it's 2.6 million now.

I have no words.


Atlanta is the most surveilled city in the US. The local news had this on TV last week. They walked around and asked a bunch of random people what they thought. Every single person said they were fine with surveillance if it made things safer.


> Every single person said they were fine with surveillance if it made things safer.

> A primary argument in favor of CCTV surveillance is improved law enforcement and crime prevention. We compared the number of public CCTV cameras with the crime and safety indices reported by Numbeo, which are based on surveys of that site’s visitors.

> For both indices, the correlation was weak (r = 0.168, r = -0.168, n = 120). A higher number of cameras just barely correlates with a higher safety index and lower crime index.


> For both indices, the correlation was weak (r = 0.168, r = -0.168, n = 120). A higher number of cameras just barely correlates with a higher safety index and lower crime index.

That's also before you consider the trade off, both in privacy and in money. How much does it cost to put up all those cameras, and how far would that money go if applied to traditional law enforcement methods? Or just not spent because the cost still exceeds the benefit even if the benefit isn't statistically indistinguishable from zero?


> A higher number of cameras just barely correlates with a higher safety index and lower crime index.

That makes an impressive case for cameras. I would have expected a negative correlation. People put up more cameras where there are more crimes.


> People put up more cameras where there are more crimes.

There is no reason to expect that correlation to exist. People put up cameras where they can afford to buy cameras and have a local legislature that can be influenced by contractors who want to sell cameras, but having money is inversely correlated with high crime rates.

There are more cameras in NYC than Detroit.


'Safer' doesn't equal 'safe'. What was the crime rate before CCTV? That's the only pertinent question.


Marketing victims. We've been told for decades that "security" cameras make us safer. They don't. A guard might. But all a camera can do is provide evidence after the fact. By then you're already dead or robbed or worse.


Crimes happen when the risk is lower than the reward. A camera increases the risk so changes the balance.

If a criminal chooses to not commit a crime (or commits it elsewhere) because the risk/reward balance is changed, then it prevented the crime from happening (there), and made that location safer.

So there is no doubt that the cameras make places safer. Even fake cameras can make a location safer. The question is whether the cost to personal integrity makes it worth it. Most importantly: who answers that question, and who ensures the cameras aren't used for bad purposes? That's probably a smaller problem in London than in Beijing.


Answer: daily double! (Just kidding.)

Why not make cameras that output only encrypted video which may be stored by agencies and decrypted only when people holding the right keys come together during a trial or active police investigation? That would be strictly better for privacy than what we have now - which is total surveillance.


Brookhaven is just north of Atlanta and when I lived there they implemented license plate cameras. They would scan for stolen cars and alert police. The police recovered more cars in the first month than the prior year combined.

The companies are now selling to private communities. [1]

[1]https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.ajc.com/news/local/meet-the...


That depends, having cameras up around your house certainly makes it a less appealing target than your neighbor who doesn't have cameras. Other than those sorts of situations though, yeah.


Can we please stop pretending that the "ask a bunch of random people" tv news sections are at all representative of anything other than the opinions of the the aforementioned random people?


Seriously. Clueless people like the OP are why the 24/7 news channels are as strong as ever.


There is a very big difference between standard CCTV cameras and automated high resolution facial recognition ones. Standard CCTV is used to collect evidence when a crime has been committed. Automated facial recognition cameras are used for real time tracking. China makes extensive use of the facial recognition ones and London only has those near Kings Cross station (which has recently caused a public outcry). Source: https://www.dezeen.com/2019/08/14/kings-cross-facial-recogni...


When in UK it always surprises how everyone tries to tidy park due to fear that CCTV will trigger a patrol to come by and toll the car away.


Seems that CCTV is doing its job then eh? :-)


Sure, but having been the first generation to learn about freedom, while everyone else from previous generations were either forced into colonial war, or had to enjoy a CCTV like state, I don't enjoy the feeling of not being able to do stuff, because "someone might be watching".


What is "tidy" parking?


Not parking in places not explicitly marked as such.


A higher number of cameras just barely correlates with a higher safety index and lower crime index.

What about conviction rates? For example, a lot of shootings in Chicago go unsolved. Maybe for lack of a witness?


Chicago's shootings are almost all gang related. That means there are no witnesses. Even if there are witnesses there are no witnesses.

A couple of police chiefs ago the chief said people unwilling to talk was the number one reason crimes go unsolved in Chicago.


I'm curious. Did he start a project to find out why people were unwilling to talk? Or to find out how the police could adapt its behaviour to make people more willing to talk?


It's the unwritten law of the south side. If you are even seen to be talking to the police, you are assumed to be a 'snitch.'


I see, thanks.


Did he start a project to find out why people were unwilling to talk? Or to find out how the police could adapt its behaviour to make people more willing to talk?

He didn't get a chance. He was fired for suggesting that people don't trust CPD because of over a century of corruption.


That counts as "yes, he did" in my book and I'd buy him a beer, too.


Chicago has 13 cameras per person. According to this data, that puts it second highest in the US (after Atlanta).


Slightly tangential, but it’s interesting that Hong Kong’s safety index is higher than one of Singapore, considering the apparently-stricter overall regulations in the latter city. They don’t seem to disclose the sources for safety & crime indices, though I assume they used a trustworthy source.

EDIT: They do credit the source to numbeo.com, which doesn’t rely on government stats (https://www.numbeo.com/crime/).


What do you suppose the source for crime rate statistics in Hong Kong/China would be? What do you think is the trustworthiness of that source?

Given the answers to these question I am not sure helpful this analysis is.


> What do you think is the trustworthiness of that source?

Relative to Singapore about the same, assuming they used government-provided stats.


These figures are per-capita in those cities; what about by per-sq-km?

Edit: Estimates always skew reality!


I came to post this same question :)


I'm surprised to see Berlin on this list, which is generally a city that is very surveillance-averse. I live in Berlin and am not even aware of the presence of surveillance cameras. Any more information on this statistic?


Look at the ceiling in most shops, lots of shop façades, all of the S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains, lots of railway stations and similar. It adds up.

Semirelevant digression: A few years ago someone found that in Munich, the shop façade cameras covered every meter of the main pedestrian street (Hbf to Marienplatz). Not planned by anyone, it was just that each shop added a camera to watch over its own expensive display window, and there are shops everywhere there. Now the government is proposing a new law giving the police real-time access.


Why is Taipei not on this list?

There are 13,000 cameras [1] for 2.7 million people [2].

1. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2011/04/08/2...

2. http://worldpopulationreview.com/world-cities/taipei-populat...


I wonder how they come up with these stats.

I have a security camera on my house. I don't know how that would be captured in the statistics at all.


It wouldn't. That is surveillance for your private home, not the city.

> We focused primarily on public CCTV—cameras used by government entities such as law enforcement

> we have also tried to find the number of private CCTV cameras in use. However, as this isn’t possible for every city, we did not include private CCTV in the overall totals.


But police have asked people to submit security camera video if something happened your camera happened to pick up.


Perhaps but I was just pointing out that's not reflected in the statistic above according to the article (see quotes above). In many parts of the world you are not even allowed to point your private security camera at a public space. In these cases you already know that legally there's no private camera constantly watching you.


Probably assuming a generally constant rate for privately owned residential security cameras across geographical differences


I’ve never seen this point made but: one response to the surveillance state is to push for more remote work. It’s infinitely easier to set up surveillance cameras in urban areas than in even a slightly rural area.


Looks like London has some catching up to do!


I've read that London has a lot of surveillance cameras, but most are privately owned, not directly controlled by the government nor the police. Is it true? Who control them? How it works?


Say for example you own a small store and you want to put a camera near the cash register, both to ensure employees don't steal from it and to capture the faces of anyone who may attempt a robbery (armed or otherwise) - this would be a privately owned surveilence camera, now suppose you own a chain of these similar stores, you now own and operate a surveilence camera network...


To expand on this, all the corporate big box retail chains have such networks & add AI facial recognition to their ubiquitous feeds. It has been like this for a couple decades now.

Anecdote: A manager of a Fortune 50 location I was working at received a call from HQ to keep an eye on a known perp who entered the store no more than 5 minutes prior to the call. Very impressive & very scary.


Wow, that's really scary, the "corporate overlord" trope is real! More scary than the "Big Brother" trope we are all familiar with...


Or just anywhere trouble might start. Every late night food place, convenience store, club, anywhere like that I expect to see a camera. Grocery stores too (because they handle a tremendous amount of cash).

Human memory is both unreliable anyway and motivated in operation. CCTV acts as an impartial witness. It doesn't automatically have all the facts, but it is reliable and unmotivated. Knowing this impartial witness has their backs enables your employees to obey policy without worrying about how that will be remembered.

The operators are supposed to do some paperwork establishing they've thought about how they're going to treat all this data, and if they want to put CCTV somewhere you'd normally expect to be private (e.g. a changing room or toilet) they need to tell the cops what they're doing and why (e.g. to investigate a specific employee suspected of theft) before they do it otherwise that's a crime.




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