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Dr. Gus Hosein is a 20+year-veteran of Privacy International. So to say that he knows a lot about privacy will be an understatement. But his knowledge is not merely academic. Gus and his scrappy team of privacy crusaders have fought the long and hard war while putting everything on the line, over and over again. A war where on a good day you might feel like David facing off Goliath. And yet, time and time again, Privacy International has taken on seemingly lost battles and scored victories from the jaws of defeat. I don’t know about you but to me, these are the kinds of people I want to hang out around, talk to, model, and learn from. The kind of people I want to interview. And Gus is as good an example of the kind as I can ever think of. So I hope you enjoy and learn from our conversation as much as I did.
During this 2-hour interview with Gus Hosein, we cover a variety of interesting topics such as: why he’s a failed mathematician with an interest in cryptography; how he ended up in policy; figuring out the role that tech plays in our life and the future; good timing, gumption and [stoic] fate; the mission and funding of Privacy International; why progress is made of partial victories; the definition of privacy and why we should care about it; the importance of being able to tell your own story; surveillance, national monitoring centers, and IMSI catchers; 5G, quantum encryption and the weakest link of the system; my persistent attempt to get to a new place or reach a new insight during my Singularity.FM interviews; the boring projection of our better selves and the benefits of struggle; why people should be free to be human – i.e. imperfect.
My favorite quote that I will take away from this conversation with Gus Hosein is his raw and off-the-cuff unique definition of privacy:
[Privacy is] The ability to establish the conditions by which we are seen, perceived, understood, and how we project ourselves.
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Dr. Gus Hosein has worked at the intersection of technology and human rights for over twenty years. He developed national, regional, and global campaigns on communications privacy. He worked on national security and anti-terrorism policy and led global advocacy against border registration, biometric collection, tracking of migration, travel profiling, and mass surveillance of financial data flows. He led research and co-authored a book on identity systems and policy, Global Challenges for Identity Policy. He founded regional and global networks of civil society organizations to work on technology and rights.
Hosein has acted as an external evaluator for UNHCR, advised the UN Special Rapporteur on Terrorism and Human Rights, and has advised a number of other international organizations. In March 2020, he was invited to join the UK Government’s Ethics Advisory Board for the NHSX Covid-19 contact tracing app.
Gus has held visiting fellowships at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Columbia University, and University College London. He was a Visiting Scholar at the American Civil Liberties Union and an advisor to their Technology and Liberty Project. He holds a B.Math (Hons) from the University of Waterloo and a Ph.D. from the University of London.
He’s previously been on the boards of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (advisory), medconfidential, the Omidyar Network Digital Identity Portfolio (advisory), Simply Secure and Tactical Tech.
In 2018 Gus was awarded the International Champion of Privacy award by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Gus shared number 42 of Silicon.com’s list of top 50 agenda-setters in 2005.
Gus is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA).