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Hundreds of thousands of people will refuse to sign up to the UK Government's planned identity register, according to just-published research. Around eight per cent of those surveyed said they would refuse to sign up to the database even if they are fined.

The survey was carried out by polling firm YouGov on behalf of the Daily Telegraph newspaper and in a sample of 1,979 people found that a significant proportion were prepared to defy the government over the database.

Of the 39 per cent of people who opposed the identity register, 21 per cent said they would resist signing up, even if it meant paying a small fine. That figure is eight per cent of the total.

If the figures are extrapolated to the entire UK population of 60 million people they mean that 23.4 million would oppose the database and 4.8 million would be prepared to face a fine for resisting signing up. If just two per cent of the country's over 16s refused to register then the Government would face a one million person revolt, the Telegraph said.

The survey found that 52 per cent of people are unhappy at their details being kept on a database, and that the biggest concern was that people could access the information who were not entitled to see it. Of those 52 per cent of people, 77 per cent said that they believed unauthorised personnel would see the information, while 71 per cent said the system could contain harmful errors about them.

The national identity register will be the main database for the Government's proposed ID cards. The register will contain identifying biometric data.

Though residents will not be required to carry the ID card at all times, OUT-LAW revealed last week that the ID card legislation allows the mobile fingerprint scanners that police are currently testing to access that database. That means that if police are given the go-ahead for mobile fingerprint machines, someone's identity can be checked immediately on the street against the database.

The Telegraph survey showed that there were high levels of approval for many of the kinds of surveillance that are on the increase in the UK. CCTV cameras in high streets were approved of by 85 per cent of people, photographing airline passengers by 72 per cent. Maintaining DNA material on a national database had an approval rating of just 37 per cent.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has repeatedly warned that the UK is becoming a surveillance society without any real public debate about the process or its consequences.

"Two years ago I warned that we were in danger of sleepwalking into a surveillance society," Thomas said in November. "Today I fear that we are in fact waking up to a surveillance society that is already all around us."

Despite 79 per cent of people surveyed saying they thought the UK was a surveillance society, 62 per cent said they did not feel they were spied upon.

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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