About James

My name’s James. I do tech stuff, these days for NGOs and vulnerable groups in society. In my day job I am the CISO at Nethope, a consortium of some of the world’s largest nonprofits which works on technology problems that have collective impact.

I am profoundly lucky to be able to do a job I enjoy with people I care about and where – for my dayjob – I basically get to devote my time to helping advocates, development professionals, technologists, human rights defenders, and others to build resilient organisations, innovate safely, protect themselves digitally, and use technology to improve the impact of their work.

In past lives, I….

….built a cybersecurity + privacy team at Oxfam and ran it for a few years. I was probably Oxfam’s first Data Protection Officer. If you want the full picture you should look at my LinkedIn, but I’m particularly proud of some of the great humans I hired, the work I did on biometrics & identity, and the structured work we did integrating cyber + privacy.

At Oxfam, I worked on, researched, and investigated incidents, challenges, tools and externalities at the intersection of ethics, do no harm, law, and tech in dozens of countries – including work on humanitarian and digital safety challenges in Myanmar, in North-West Syria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and dozens of other program contexts – and fieldwork in Rwanda, Jordan, and Bangladesh as part of the Rohingya Response.

worked for a non-profit biometric tech startup (Simprints) as Director of Privacy, Responsible Data, and Risk – where I also built a cybersecurity & privacy program and worked on digital risk + innovation challenges with partners on 3 continents.

I’m proud of my small role in this great bunch of humans’ continuing journey on data responsibility. Things I found particularly fun include: kickstarting an innovation partnership with ICRC (youtube), some work on ethical open source biometrics, and authoring a handbook on humanitarian biometric safety.

did a tonne of cybersecurity consulting work & red teaming for customers in the UK and overseas. I worked for NGSSoftware, an eccentric and delightful British security research & consulting firm now part of NCC Group. In my consulting life I helped customers from government to high tech to media figure out how broken (or not) their tech was, and how to build and operate it safely and wisely.

Mostly, I disassembled, reverse engineered, broke, and otherwise abused other people’s tech, as part of a bigger team of extraordinarily smart humans. From time to time I ran small teams of them and when I jumped ship I estimated that I’d done around 300 consulting engagements. If you’ve used the internet, used a smartphone, accessed online banking, used e-government services in the UK, accessed healthcare or watched the TV chances are reasonably good you’ve used hardware or software I was involved in ripping apart or building safely.

Outside my work life, I….

…was one of the freenode staff team for longer than I really care to remember (and was part of the team that setup libera.chat when freenode all went a bit weird). For a significant proportion of my adult life, I am proud to have been part of an eclectic bunch of nerds holding together communications infrastructure most people have (thankfully) never heard of, and allowing truly international and pluralist collaboration on some of the most important parts of modern information society.

I’m particularly proud at freenode of some of the work I did with youth communities experiencing unfiltered internet for the first time during the Arab Spring, the resolution of uncountable inter-group forks and feuds in Open Source and Free Software projects, and of the lifeboat we built when it became suddenly apparent the mothership had sprung a leak. I wrote a bit about this over here.

have a stereotypical nerd range of hobbies which inevitably include Star Trek, amateur radio, martial arts, and calligraphy. If you’re in Oxford, you might know me from our delightful bike coop, Broken Spoke where I occasionally volunteer as a mechanic & was once a trustee.

work with civil society groups and at-risk communities in an attempt to use tech to make the world better, safer, faster, nicer. If you think we should be working together on this, please be in touch!

And most importantly – live in a loving home with my partner and young family; generally surrounded by friends, warmth, and the smell of coffee and homemade Indian food.

If you’re here, probably you know me from my work life – but maybe somewhere else! This site has pointers to some other places you can find me online, as well as some ephemera