Thursday 9 September 2010

No Data Protection in Outer Space!

I just found out my name is on board the IKAROS spacecraft, which is currently solar sailing its way from Earth to Venus. Apparently this is a benefit of my membership of the Planetary Society – yes I do have other interests outside information security.


I don’t recall agreeing for my name to be sent into space, but I’m sure glad they did it, especially as this spacecraft may change course of interplanetary and interstellar exploration forever, plus the spacecraft could end up drifting in space for eternity, but I'll save further discussion on that for a different themed blog. So getting back to security, to be perfectly clear, an individual’s name on its own doesn’t require any protection and is not a requirement of legal acts such as the UK Data Protection Act. This is a common misnomer, it is only when you combine an individual’s name with another pieces of their personal information, such as a date of birth when it comes into scope of requiring protection. Although I have to say not many small UK businesses are up to speed with their legal data protection obligations.

I personally believe the Data Protection Act is outdated, and is in need of a major review and overhaul. The Act was written in the nineties before the Internet usage really took shape, and in this day and age of social networking and instant availability of UK citizen personal information, such within online electrical roll websites, there could be an argument there is actually little point in trying to make businesses protect certain aspects of our personal information anyway, because the horse has already bolted.

But even if my full personal details were along side my name on the IKAROS spacecraft, I would argue adequate data protection was in place. Due to the vacuum of millions of miles of space, my personal information isn’t exactly publically assessable. I consider my details to be certainly more secure in space than within the care of certain government departments and companies I could mention. I mean it’s not like I’m at risk of identity theft by extra terrestrials, or am I?


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