We’d like to express our sorrow at Caspar Bowden’s passing, and to note some of his very remarkable achievements over the last few years. Caspar has been an active member of our Advisory Council since joining it in October 2013 and helped us greatly with our views on surveillance policy, security and European data protection.
Among his contributions to ORG were a series of lectures he gave prior to the PRISM revelations, where he pointed out the gaping holes in US legislation that could allow bulk collection and access to US corporations’ data vaults. At the time, he was pretty much the only person in Europe making these points, cogently and loudly.
Caspar also condemned the holes in European data protection legislation that made US political surveillance impossible to resist. He was consistent in showing the flaws in data transfer rules that would make Europeans’ data rights increasingly impossible to protect. On all these points, Caspar has been setting the agenda, and pushing harder than the Commission or US governments would like. Doing that puts you in a lonely place, and often does not win you friends, but his analysis and assessment of the importance of these points has been shown by events to be correct.
Caspar helped ORG with our work on the Snoopers’ Charter, which is the bastard child of data retention, itself one of his career long fights. He wrote in his chapter on data preservation for our report, explaining how data retention was being combined with collection and analysis:
The Home Office has the Olympic chutzpah to call the apparatus for data-mining all this information a “Filter”, and to justify it in the name of human rights. It says that by connecting up a virtual database (to hunt for arbitrary patterns of suspicion in all the data), they won’t have to build a new central database. But the point is the untrammelled power to hunt through every private life with the tools of military intelligence … It ought to be obvious that continuously recording the pattern of interactions of every online social relationship, and analyzing them with the “Filter”, is simply tyrannical.
Those kinds of observations are what made him an inspiration to campaigners and activists in the digital rights movement.
Caspar, you’ll be missed.