The world will be watched by an astonishing one billion CCTV cameras by the end of next year, researchers claim.
While 18 of the top 20 most surveilled cities are in China, known for its state crackdowns, London comes a surprising third in the league table.
The capital has one camera for every 15 people, a new study reveals, a level beaten by only two cities – Taiyuan, with one camera for every eight residents, and Wuxi (one in 11).
And the new analysis supports a wider claim that CCTV cameras are proliferating at such a rate that there could be a billion across the globe by the end of next year.
Promoters of mass surveillance claim it helps reduce crime, but critics fear the huge expansion of cameras gives the potential for totalitarian control – without a significant impact on crime levels.
Criminologists say crime simply moves out of sight. London-based civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch said the city’s place in the global league table was a cause for concern.
Director Silkie Carlo, said: ‘That the UK so closely follows China as a surveillance state should set alarm bells ringing. This country is covered with CCTV at a huge cost to the public purse despite a lack of any evidence that they reduce criminality.
‘There is plenty of evidence that such mass CCTV enables authoritarian control and that such intensely monitored populations are prone to self-censorship.’
The analysis was carried out by technology website Comparitech, which said: ‘We found little correlation between the number of public CCTV cameras and crime or safety.’
It came as the US abandoned a consulate in China amid an international spying row yesterday.
China ordered the closing of the consulate in Chengdu in retaliation for a US order to close the Chinese consulate in Houston amid a spying row.