The number of council-controlled CCTV cameras has nearly trebled in a decade, figures have revealed.
There are now 60,000 cameras owned by town halls across the UK - one for every 1,000 people.
Privacy campaigner Big Brother Watch uncovered the scale of CCTV use by local authorities in a major national study.
Director Alex Deane said CCTV was seen as a "cheap alternative to policing".
The rise of expensive "surveillance networks" has made little impact on cutting crime, he said.
He said: "Local councils across Britain are creating enormous networks of CCTV surveillance at great expense, but the evidence for the ability of CCTV to deter or solve crimes is sketchy at best. The quality of footage is frequently too poor to be used in courts, the cameras are often turned off to save money and control rooms are rarely manned 24 hours a day."
The study, entitled Big Brother Is Watching, found that 418 local authorities control 59,753 cameras. Ten years ago a similar study found the total was 21,000.
Freedom of Information Act requests revealed the councils with most cameras were Portsmouth and Nottinghamshire, which each control 1,454. Fife council in Scotland runs 1,350 cameras. Per person, residents of the Outer Hebrides were the most watched, with eight for every 1,000 residents.
The total of nearly 60,000 excludes thousands of cameras used by private companies and central government. It is thought Britain is one of the most watched countries in the world, with an estimated four million cameras.
Ministers have said CCTV is an "important tool" in crime fighting, but a Home Office study found the cameras had a negligible effect on cutting crime. A Metropolitan Police study found only one crime is solved every year for every 1,000 CCTV cameras. The one million cameras in London helped solve 1,000 crimes last year.