Caspar Bowden

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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
Died9 July 2015(2015-07-09) (aged 53)
Southern France
Alma materMagdalene College, Cambridge
Known forHumans Rights and privacy advocacy
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Sandi Bowden
RelativesSimon Bowden (brother)[3]
AwardsWinston award (2000)
Caspar Bowden-signature.jpg

Caspar Pemberton Scott Bowden (19 August 1961 – 9 July 2015) was a British privacy advocate, formerly chief privacy adviser at Microsoft. Styled as "an independent advocate for information privacy rights, and public understanding of privacy research in computer science",[4] he was on the board of the Tor anonymity service.[5] Having predicted US mass surveillance programmes such as PRISM from open sources, he gathered renewed attention after the Snowden leaks vindicated his warnings.[6]


Born in London, Bowden studied Mathematics at Magdalene College in Cambridge.[3] He dropped out and worked as an independent entrepreneur in technology before joining Goldman Sachs.[1][3]

Bowden served on the Executive Committee of Scientists for Labour and helped shape the stance of the Labour Party on the matter.[2] In 1997, he entered the world of privacy advocacy when he attended the Scrambling for Safety event organised by Simon Davies at the London School of Economics.[7] 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.[2] He became its first director, earning the Winston award in 2000 for his work against the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.[6]

In 2002, Bowden joined Microsoft; he served as Senior Privacy Strategist for Europe, the Middle East and Africa until 2004, and became Chief Privacy Adviser for 40 countries in 2005.[8][9] 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".[10] 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."[10][11][12]

In 2012, prior to the Snowden leaks, he authored the Note on privacy and Cloud computing, forewarning that the USA used European reliance on cloud computing services to monitor its data.[4][13][14] 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.[9][15] 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.[16]

In 2013, Bowden briefed the European Parliament on the FISA law.[4] In an interview to The Guardian,[17] he stated that he did not trust Microsoft.[6] Instead, he advocated the use of Tor and Qubes OS.[18] In October, he joined the Advisory Council of the Open Rights Group.[19]

Bowden died of melanoma in Southern France on 9 July 2015 at the age of 53. He was survived by his wife Sandi.[3][6] Jacob Appelbaum reported that on his deathbed, Bowden asked "that we work to ensure equal protection regardless of nationality".[20][21] He was posthumously awarded the Liberty Lifetime Achievement Award (2015)[22] and EFF Pioneer Award (2015).[23]

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 (KU Leuven), Roger Dingledine (The Tor Project, Inc) and George Danezis (University College London).[24]



  1. ^ a b Ross Anderson. "Caspar Bowden obituary". The Guardian.
  2. ^ a b c In Memoriam: Caspar Bowden, Danny O'Brien, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 9 July 2015
  3. ^ a b c d Caspar Bowden, European Privacy Advocate, Dies at 53, Ania Nussbaum, The Wall Street Journal blog, 10 July 2015
  4. ^ a b c caspar bowden. "Caspar Bowden".
  5. ^ The Tor Project, Inc. "Tor".
  6. ^ a b c d Caspar Bowden, tireless defender of online privacy, dies, Ars Technica
  7. ^ Simon Davies (10 July 2015). "Obituary: Caspar Bowden, a fearless privacy pioneer". The Conversation.
  8. ^ "On Prism, the Snooper's Charter, whistleblowers, spies and secret courts – what can we say?". openDemocracy. 18 June 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  9. ^ a b Charles Arthur in Lausanne (30 September 2013). "Ex-Microsoft privacy adviser: I don't trust company". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  10. ^ a b RIP Caspar, Ray Corrigan
  11. ^ Ex-Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Warns About Cloud Surveillance Archived 11 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine,, Vladimir Covic, 8 January 2015
  12. ^ I got fired 3 yrs ago for telling @Microsoft this. Tweet by Caspar Bowden
  13. ^ "Interview with Caspar Bowden: Tracing the (Mis)steps to the PRISM Revelation – LSE Media Policy Project". London School of Economics.
  14. ^ Caspar Bowden, NSA Hearing LIBE European Parliament, 24 September 2013, European Parliament AV Service
  15. ^ 1. How to wiretap the Cloud (without anybody noticing) by Caspar Bowden (PRISM). 11 June 2013 – via YouTube.
  16. ^ The Cloud Conspiracy 2008–2014: how the EU was hypnotised that the NSA did not exist, CCC-TV
  17. ^ Ex-Microsoft privacy adviser: I don't trust company, The Guardian, 30 September 2013
  18. ^ Outspoken privacy campaigner Caspar Bowden dies after battle with cancer, The Guardian, Samuel Gibbs, 10 July 2015
  19. ^ Caspar Bowden, Jim Killock, Open Rights Group, 10 July 2015
  20. ^ Caspar Bowden, UK privacy pioneer, mourned by tech industry, BBC, Dave Lee
  21. ^ In the hospital @CasparBowden asked that we work to ensure equal protection regardless of nationality. Privacy is a universal human right, Jacob Appelbaum, Twitter post, 9 July 2015
  22. ^ Human Rights Awards 2015: Liberty recognises fearless activists at the forefront of the battle for our rights, Liberty, 8 September 2015
  23. ^ EFF Announces 2015 Pioneer Award Winners: Caspar Bowden, Citizen Lab, Anriette Esterhuysen and the Association for Progressive Communications, and Kathy Sierra Archived 5 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine, EFF, 24 September 2015
  24. ^ "Caspar Bowden's Privacy Advocacy Legacy". University College London.

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