Is space the new Switzerland?


What’s more secure than a Swiss bank vault? A bank vault in space. Increasing global threats to cybersecurity combined with the rapidly shrinking cost of shooting things into orbit means that extraterrestrial safe deposit boxes are increasingly viable.

At SXSW, Jeff Garzik, one of a handful of developers responsible for maintaining the bitcoin codebase, announced plans to begin sending data-centres into space with his company Dunvegan Space Systems. Keeping your digital valuables in space has benefits. Valuable data like bitcoin encryption keys, sensitive backups and passwords are impervious to physical hacking and out of the legal and financial jurisdiction of government spy agencies, regulators and tax collectors. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t come cheap: a single 10cm squared CubeSat satellite costs $1 million, while a special discount rate sees a fleet of 24 satellites available for a bargain $19 million. But following recent revelations in Switzerland, non-earth banking may start looking attractive to multinationals looking to horde tax-free profits.

The announcements come soon after George Osborne’s 2015 UK Budget, including initiatives aimed at much criticised tax avoiding businesses like Google, Apple, Amazon and Starbucks. The so-called ‘Google Tax’ creates a 25% tax band for businesses that operate in Britain but shift profits overseas.

Will these new initiatives stop tax-dodging multinationals? Probably not. The Guardian reported last year that many big businesses will be able to sidestep these new rules with ease, and may drive them from investing in the UK altogether. While stricter tax enforcement hopes to bring big businesses back down to earth, it may only succeed in driving them into space.

This list originally appeared in Moving World Wednesday 20150325

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