Britons: smile you're on CCTV

No-one really has any idea how many CCTV cameras there are blinking at Britons as they go about their daily business, half-arsed studies reveal.

The latest estimate of some 1.85 million cameras is based on a map of the blighters in Cheshire and extrapolated across the whole of the UK.

A previous guestimate put the number at around 4.2 million but that was based on a count of the number of cameras there were on a mile of road in an urban area.

If the new figures are any gauge whatsoever, then the average Briton is filmed 70 times a day, according to the Old Bill.

Deputy Chief Constable of Cheshire, Graeme Gerrard, who looks after such matters for the Association of Chief Police Officers, reckons the latest guess is a better guess than the old one. He said he wanted to "inject more rigorous figures into the debate" over Big Brother Britain.

Writing in CCTV Image magazine (pdf), Gerrard said: "Eight years after the 4.2 million figure was first published, we now have research that indicates that the figure is less than half this guesstimate. We also know that unless you make a particular point of visiting as many CCTV hotspot areas as you can, you are unlikely to be captured on CCTV 300 times a day."

He insisted: "The real figure for the number of times the average person is likely to be 'caught' on CCTV in a day is less than 70 - and most of these will be at your workplace or fleeting glimpses by cameras located in shops".

The latest estimate of 1.85 million cameras is based on a guess that there are 1.7 million privately-owned CCTV cameras dotted about the country. Local authorities confess to be running 33,433 to keep on eye on the people who elect their leaders and the plod estimate there are 115,000 cameras on public transport systems in the UK. Don't they know? Our estimate is that there's about half of that number on the London Underground alone.

The new guess comes as the Home Office considers plans to regulate the spread of CCTV networks while the public begins to get het up about being on Candid Camera 24 hours a day.

Developments such as easy-to-deploy facial recognition technology are coming online fast and soon you won't be able to fart on a bus without the molecule cloud being captured by some new-fangled detector and the fine will no doubt soon follow along in the post.

Or perhaps it'll just be sent to your FaceBook page.