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The Brits: Most Surveilled in World

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Eight hundred video-surveillance cameras equipped with the latest infrared technology have been installed throughout central London.

The closed circuit television cameras, also known as CCTV, are mounted on poles at more than 200 entrance points around the city.

The area has all the capital's best known landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, and Buckingham Palace.

These high-tech cameras can scan up to 3,000 license plates an hour giving police instant access to any suspicious vehicles. And there's more to these video cameras than meets the eye. They can also zoom in on the faces of drivers entering the city.

"Some of those cameras are extraordinarily sophisticated they have facial recognition, pre-programmed is actually faces of criminals so that the computer will identify individuals who are wanted by the authorities," said Dr. Magnus Ranstorp, terrorism consultant.

Today, the English are the most surveilled in the world. With less than one-quarter of America's population, Britain has nearly three million surveillance cameras in the country-- 10 percent of the world's total. Increasingly, the data from these cameras are being pooled.

But some are concerned that their country is becoming a police state. Privacy advocates argue the surveillance technology promotes a false sense of security and is a complete invasion of public privacy.

"The concern is, is when the information and the footage from the CCTV cameras is just used as part of a fishing expedition in order to find out any information which might be available about people driving in and out of the city," said Gareth Crossman, who works for London-based watchdog group.

Crossman says millions have been misled over the dual function of this new surveillance system. He calls this "function creep."

"When a system is put in place, whether it be a CCTV system, ID Card system, it will always be put in for a particular purpose," Crossman said. "Once it's in place the government or whichever body it is that's introducing it, will then say now that we have this system in place let's see what else we can use it for. As a consequence, whatever is being initially proposed, you can almost guarantee that in a few years down the line, there will be all sorts of new suggestions as to what further uses it can be put to."

What's amazing about all this surveillance is that a majority of Brits don't seem too worried by it. In fact, the camera's are hailed as the people's technology.

And it's not just the English who are gaga over CCTV technology. Since 9/11, camera surveillance has been rising around the world.

The big question is: Will the U.S. follow in Britain's footsteps?

Today, many private businesses, town governments and police departments across the U.S. are installing surveillance cameras.

And now at a time when U.S. federal agents watch Americans more closely than ever, privacy advocates want to know--who's watching the watchers?