The world’s most surveilled citizens

Robert BrandlJosep Garcia

By Robert & Josep

most watched countries

They’re watching us. And no, we don’t mean aliens – we mean the hundreds of thousands of CCTV cameras on every street corner, online surveillance and millions of attempts across the globe from governments to gain their citizen’s personal data.

Which countries are keeping the closest eye on their citizens?

At Tooltester we wanted to see where in the world people were being watched the most, by calculating the number of CCTV cameras per citizen, and the number of attempts by governments to gain their citizens personal data from Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter. We scored each country on both factors to give an overall ranking, revealing the world’s most surveilled citizens.

infographic most watched citizens

PositionCountry RegionCCTV cameras in major citiesCCTV cameras per 10K peopleTotal Data RequestsData Requests per 10K People
9Hong Kong50,000675,0817

Taking number one place for the most watched country in the world is China. It might not surprise you to know that China has more CCTV than anywhere else in the world. With over one camera for every citizen in its major cities, it’s almost impossible to go unnoticed here. Online life is no different, with Facebook, Twitter and Google forbidden, personal data requests from the government to these platforms are low. Citizens are made to use a tightly moderated government social media site where everything is monitored, gaining China people the title of ‘The Most watched citizens’.

Perhaps more surprisingly is who comes in second place. The leader of the free world, The United States of America, has an average of two cameras for every 10 people in its major cities. With the country’s security on higher alert than ever after the recent attack on the Capitol building, surveillance has never been tracked more carefully as law enforcement look to limit the risk of domestic terrorism. Online surveillance is no different, despite tense debates over online manipulation, the government indulged in requests for over 800,000 of its citizens personal data in 2019 alone.

The UK claimed third place, as it made 117,848 personal data requests in 2019, and has one CCTV camera for every 16 citizens in its larger cities. The UK government has long been accused of mass surveillance of its citizens and creating bulk databases of personal information, with the EU Court having to enforce a limit on the country’s surveillance activities in 2020. With the UK now out of the EU and not obliged to stick to the limit, it may face similar problems as the US, with data transfers between their country and the EU considered under threat due to concerns over indiscriminate bulk surveillance.

Who has the most CCTV in the world? The top ten countries

CCTV throughout the world is still increasing every day, especially in highly populated areas. To see which countries were watching their citizens’ movements the closest, we gathered the number of CCTV cameras from major cities in each country around the world.

PositionCountry RegionCCTV in named major citiesPopulation of citiesCCTV per 10K people
6United Arab Emirates55,0001,452,057378.77

With 10,342 CCTV cameras per 10,000 citizens in China, they’ve got enough video recording devices for everyone. Out of the 150 most populated cities around the world that our research analysed, 18 out of the top 20 most surveilled cities were in China. The chances of your actions going unnoticed here are slim, especially in built-up, urban areas.

The United States comes in second place here too, with 2,232 cameras per 10,000 people. Due to the large areas of rural land in America, many people living there aren’t surrounded by an urban environment, making it harder for their movements to be captured.

A little surprisingly, it’s Pakistan in third place. The built-up nature of the cities in this country means people live in close quarters, with overpopulation an increasing concern. In these major cities we calculated there are on average 790 cameras for every 10,000 residents.

The top ten countries for online surveillance

It’s not just CCTV that can track what you’re up to. As social media continues to have an increasing impact in our daily lives, countries are paying more and more attention to what you’re up to online. Online is often where true personalities are revealed, and government bodies are taking interest in the data collected from your activities. We ranked the countries by the number of requests made per 10,000 citizens to Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter for citizens personal data in the course of a year.

PositionCountry RegionGoogle requestsApple RequestsFacebook RequestsMicrosoft RequestsTwitter RequestsTotal per 10K PeopleTotal Requests

China took first place for online surveillance. Although they don’t make many requests, we gave them the top score possible, as the government already knows what its citizens are doing through operating a very strict social media policy. China has blocked Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as thousands of other foreign websites, including The New York Times and Chinese Wikipedia. This means citizens can only use a tightly moderated government social media site, where everything you do can be seen by the people in charge.

The one service that is permitted is Apple. Asia is the manufacturing hub of the iPhone, and the Chinese government makes 0.679 requests per 10,000 people for Apple data.

Surprisingly, in second place you’ll find Malta. The popular holiday destination makes over 33 requests per 10,000 people, a move that could be linked to the 2019 riots. The riots began after certain politicians were linked to the murder of a popular journalist, with the government likely to want to monitor what people were up to in an attempt to quell the unrest.

Another Asian country also ranking highly for data requests is Singapore. Across all social media platforms, they make over 26 requests per 10,000 people, in a place where social media is more accessible than in China, but still just as moderated.

The top five countries by platform

We looked further into which governments are intruding the most on their citizens’ personal data by each online platform, naming the top five offenders for each online giant.

4France11San Marino1UK5Germany2Ireland0.2

Singapore made the most requests for personal data from Google. Singapore is known for keeping a close eye on online content, from introducing the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act in 201, which has been called the “most far-reaching legislation of its kind to date”.

The USA came out on top for requesting the most Apple data per 10,000 citizens, showing the government’s specific interest in what their citizens are getting up to on their phones. Facebook received 691,223 requests for personal data in 2019, with Malta requesting 12 out of every 10,000 citizens data from the platform. Twitter received the fewest government data requests in 2019, at just 16,113, and Japan made 3,703 of them.

TikTok is another app which has taken the world by storm recently, but government data requests to the app are still minimal, with just 500 in total in 2019. India made the largest number of requests, with a total of 302, and the USA made the second largest, at 100.

Online Censorship

Censorship is also used by other countries to control the platforms their citizens are able to use, rather than monitor them. As well as in China, Twitter is blocked in Iran and North Korea, and Facebook is blocked in Iran, North Korea and Syria. Unfortunately, CCTV figures were not available for these countries so they were not ranked in our study, but it is estimated that there are only 28 websites permitted in North Korea, all of which are government owned. All content seen by their citizens is controlled.

In China, websites built using tools such as Wix and Squarespace are also partly blocked. At WebsiteToolTester we provide more information on, and honest reviews of the best website builders available, so you can pick a tool that will offer you the best service available.


The most recent transparency reports detailing data requests quantities from individual governments to Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, were cut by the countries’ population to calculate which countries governments are watching their citizens online most. The number of CCTV cameras from 150 of the most populated cities in the world were taken from a variety of sources, including the most recent government reports, police websites, and news articles available.

These figures were then cut by the cities’ populations to gather which countries have the highest number of cameras per citizen. The overall ranking took into account the number of CCTV cameras and data requests per citizen, equally. Certain countries were omitted due to lack of reliable data available.

Robert Brandl

Founder and CEO

Hi, my name is Robert Brandl, and I am the founder of Tooltester. I used to work in a digital marketing agency where I managed website and email marketing projects. To optimize my client's campaigns, I always had to find the optimal web tools. Tooltester (founded in 2010) opens this knowledge to you, hopefully saving you endless hours of research. If you have any questions, please leave a comment. You can also find me on LinkedIn.

Josep Garcia

Content Manager

Hi there, I am Josep Garcia. Since 2014 I've been testing and writing about website builders and hosting services, and I share all my learnings at Today I am not an active staff member anymore, but I do hope you enjoyed this article. And if you have any questions, please leave me a comment below.

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This article has been written and researched following a precise methodology.

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