In a study conducted by the Safety.com security team, research has found that the average American is filmed by security cameras over 230 times a week, a number that has increased rapidly over the last decade and will continue to do so in the near future.
Surveillance technology isn’t new, but there has been an exponential increase in the number of security cameras deployed throughout the United States and around the world. CNBC reports that there will be an estimated one billion security cameras filming around the world by 2021, with somewhere between 10-18% of those being in the United States alone.
When calculated on a per-person basis, this is the second-highest ratio of security cameras to population in the world. CBS News reported in 2019 that second to China, the US has at least one security camera filming for every 4.6 people, compared to one camera for every 4.1 people in China.
Below, our research on how many times one might be filmed by security cameras each day is based on IPUMS Time Use data and spread out over the course of an average week:
How Many Times a Day is an Average Person Caught on Camera?
At Home or Around the Neighborhood
Just a few short years ago this one was likely much closer to zero than most of the examples, it might be the one consumers will see jump the highest in the near future. The advent of doorbell cameras becoming the norm for many people thinking about home security means an exponential increase in the number of times they might end up on camera, both on their own home security system but also while walking through the neighborhood where other homeowners might have their own system set up.
This is by far the way most people end up on camera throughout the day since most major intersections now have cameras. And while it’s difficult to know how many are actively and permanently storing their recordings (less common) versus passive use for traffic data analysis (more common), with the average driver commuting just over 29 miles a day, research suggests that the average driver will drive through over 20 cameras a day.
During Work Hours
While filming employees at work is a complicated legal area, the fact remains that a substantial number of people are being filmed by security cameras every day in their workplace. It’s important to note specifically the drastic range that can occur for those in the workforce as some people are likely filmed hundreds of times while at work as is the case in retail or perhaps transportation, as compared to those working in offices where there might be a single camera at the entrance, if at all. We took this into account as best as possible to find the most accurate average.
Shopping or Running Errands
The average person goes grocery shopping approximately two times per week, and might conduct other errands in retail establishments once or twice a week as well. It is the norm now to see dozens of cameras in any given store these days, as retailers try to deter theft and other criminal behavior in their stores.
The Normalization of Being on Camera
One thing to note about our study is the drastic underestimation by most US residents of how many times they are being filmed each day. A survey conducted in 2016 found that the majority of people assumed they were being recorded or filmed less than five times a day.
One area for future study will be to gauge the sentiment toward this volume of security camera exposure to see how US residents feel about being recorded as often as they are.
- It’s important to note that while we found an average we are comfortable reporting on, the swings both directions can be drastic. There are people, as an example those who frequently travel by air, or work in high security environments, who might be on camera easily over 1,000 times a week, while there are plenty of jobs and careers that might make it so someone entirely avoids being recorded during their average week.
- We expect this number to continually increase and normalize the presence of security cameras as technology and facial recognition improves.