As Scotland votes, data sovereignty concerns mount

Yes vote could spark "huge" data migration project as organisations seek to ensure safety of their data

Organisations with data hosted in Scotland could be forced to pull out in the event of a 'Yes' vote in today's independence referendum.

Data sovereignty is just one of many IT-related issues that will have to be considered in the event of a vote to break up the Act of Union.

Scotland has a thriving data centre industry thanks to its cool climate, relatively inexpensive land and skilled workforce.

However many British companies have rules stating their data centres must be located in Britain, and so would be forced to migrate their data from Scotland to the rest of the UK in the event of a split, Lubor Ptacek, vice president of strategy at OpenText, told ComputerworldUK.

"Companies are worrying about that data. US agencies tend to be a little free and easy about snooping on people's data, so some countries have laws that stipulate data must reside in a certain location ," he said.

"And there's a question if there's enough data capacity in the rest of the UK to accommodate a migration en masse from Scotland", Ptacek added.

The issue would be of particular concern to government, he said. In the event of a separation there may be an order to move Scottish data into Scotland and data for England, if in Scotland, to England, Ptacek explained.

The process of identifying which data relates to which country would be complex and likely to involve content analysis tools. These "allow you to look a little deeper into the data pool and see which names and locations are identifiable as Scottish or English, Welsh and so on", he said.

"We've got no notion of the cost of this. It will require a huge project and will not be cheap."

Uncertainty over whether or not Scotland would be a member of the European Union (EU) automatically or would have to apply and wait for a number of years also poses a problem.

"The way we've dealt with sovereignty so far is 'data zones'. A lot of European countries insist their data is not located in the US after the Snowden revelations about the NSA and the Patriot Act. A lot of them have data protection laws and privacy laws. And we have EU regulations," Ptacek said.

If Scotland is not a member of the EU it would not be able to use the protection of EU regulation over data to reassure companies it is safe to host data there.

"They'd need to deal with their own data privacy and would have to legislate on it. That's another level of complexity," he added.

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