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Caspar Bowden
Caspar Bowden on black background, giving a speech
Caspar Bowden at the Congress on Privacy & Surveillance (2013) of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Born (1961-08-19)19 August 1961
London
Died 9 July 2015(2015-07-09) (aged 53)
Nationality British
Alma mater Magdalene College, Cambridge
Known for Humans Rights and privacy advocacy
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Sandi Bowden
Relatives Simon Bowden (brother)
Malcolm Bowden (brother)
Awards Winston award (2000)
Signature
Caspar Bowden-signature.jpg

Caspar Pemberton Scott Bowden (19 August 1961 – 9 July 2015) was a British privacy advocate, formerly a chief privacy adviser at Microsoft. Styled as "an independent advocate for information privacy rights, and public understanding of privacy research in computer science", he was on the board of the Tor anonymity service. and a fellow of the British Computer Society. Having predicted US mass surveillance programmes such as PRISM from open sources, he gathered renewed attention after the Snowden leaks vindicated his warnings.

Biography

Born in London, Bowden was educated first at Westminster Under School (1970–74) where he already showed precociousness in the sciences, and then at the prestigious Westminster School (1974-9) and then studied Mathematics at Magdalene College in Cambridge. He dropped out and worked as an independent entrepreneur in technology before joining Goldman Sachs.

Bowden served on the Executive Committee of Scientists for Labour and helped shape the stance of the Labour Party on the matter. In 1997, he entered the world of privacy advocacy when he attended the first Scrambling for Safety event, in response to the UK government's plans for key-escrow encryption, organised by Simon Davies at the London School of Economics. After the Labour won power in 1997 and reneged on its promises, considering instead to enforce mandatory cryptographic backdoors, Bowden co-founded the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) in May 1998. He became its first director, earning the Winston award in 2000 for his work against the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

In 2002, Bowden joined Microsoft; he served as a Senior Privacy Strategist for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (not the US) until 2004, and became a Chief Privacy Advisor, Microsoft EMEA Technology Office, UK in 2005. In 2007, Bowden lead "the privacy pillar of the Trustworthy Computing initiative across Europe, Middle-East and Africa for Microsoft". During his tenure, he expressed vocal opposition against the Human Rights discrimination between US citizens and foreigners enforced by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which he dubbed being "guilty of being a foreigner". His public advocacy led to his dismissal from Microsoft in 2011, after he stated that "If you sell Microsoft cloud computing to your own governments then this law (FISA) means that NSA can conduct unlimited mass surveillance on that data."

In 2012, prior to the Snowden leaks, he co-authored the Note on privacy and Cloud computing, forewarning that the USA used European reliance on cloud computing services to monitor its data. After Snowden's disclosures vindicated him, he criticised PRISM, stating he had suspected the existence of the project during his time at Microsoft, although he had not known it by name.

In 2013, Bowden authored the 2013 European Parliament inquiry briefing on the US FISA law, The US surveillance programmes and their impact on EU citizens' fundamental rights, In an interview to The Guardian, he stated that he did not trust Microsoft. Instead, he advocated the use of Tor and Qubes OS, and stated he had eliminated all Microsoft products from his software stack, opting for free software, and stopped using a mobile phone. In October, he joined the Advisory Council of the Open Rights Group.

In winter 2014, he gave a talk on the subject at the 31st Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, The Cloud Conspiracy, detailing how he had worked out the shape of PRISM from open sources, and the lack of reaction to his warnings to European Union institutions.

A resident of London and Toulouse, Bowden died of melanoma in Saint-Gaudens, Haute-Garonne France on 9 July 2015 at the age of 53. He was survived by his wife Sandi, and brothers Malcolm and Simon. Jacob Appelbaum reported that on his deathbed, Bowden asked "that we work to ensure equal protection regardless of nationality". He was posthumously awarded the Liberty Lifetime Achievement Award (2015) and EFF Pioneer Award (2015).

The Caspar Bowden Legacy Fund for privacy advocacy and technology was founded on 12 July, with an initial staff comprising Bart Preneel (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Claudia Diaz (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Roger Dingledine (The Tor Project, Inc) and George Danezis (University College London).

Works

  • Bowden, Caspar: "Closed Circuit Television For Inside Your Head: Blanket Traffic Data Retention and the Emergency Anti-Terrorism Legislation ", Computer and Telecommunications Law Review, March 2002.
  • N. Robinson, H. Graux, M. Botterman, L. Valeri: Review of the European Data Protection Directive (interviewee)
  • Bowden, Caspar (2013-10-02). The US surveillance programmes and their impact on EU citizens' fundamental rights. Policy Department C: Citizens' Rights And Constitutional Affairs, European Parliament, European Union. pp. 40. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/libe/dv/briefingnote_/briefingnote_en.pdf.
  • Bowden, Caspar: "The Cloud Conspiracy 2008–2014: how the EU was hypnotised that the NSA did not exist" (video), 31st Chaos Communication Congress (31C3)
  • Bowden, Caspar: Chapter Five Part I: Data preservation instead of data retention , chapter of Why the Snoopers’ Charter is the wrong approach: A call for targeted and accountable investigatory powers, report of the Open Rights Group.
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