IT began in 1985, when a CCTV camera was installed on the seafront at Bournemouth.
Now, 24 years later, Britons are observed every day by an estimated 4.2m cameras – including many in Huddersfield.
It is claimed the average person is captured on camera 300 times a day.
A Huddersfield expert today argued that the systems need to be properly regulated. Dr David Skinns, a criminologist at the University of Huddersfield, said there was evidence that CCTV has been used for voyeurism and that it has been used illicitly by security services.
“But whether we like it or not, we are stuck with the movement towards surveillance in general and the growth of CCTV in particular, so we have to make sure that it is accountable.
“We should be aiming for a balanced way of dealing with crime and not simply pouring excessive amounts into CCTV systems.”
He added: “We spent £500m on CCTV between 1996 and 2006 without any real evidence to show that it worked. You could say we were completely mad to do this. But maybe it would be politically mad not to do it because you seem to be doing something about crime.”
There are 160 cameras in the town centres of Kirklees, with around 60 in Huddersfield.
The images are encrypted and stored on disk for 31 days, after which they are recorded over unless requested by a law enforcement agency.
A Kirklees spokesman said: “There is a strict code of conduct to comply with the Data Protection Act with an audit trail of who views the images.
None are ever released to be used for ‘entertainment’ purposes on CCTV footage television programmes.”