Ravi Naik: “What would make my life better? A direct line to Google”

The data rights lawyer talks Jacinda Ardern, Peter Pomerantsev’s This is Not Propaganda, and investigative journalists.

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Ravi Naik is a lawyer who has represented clients including Extinction Rebellion’s Sam Knights. In 2018 the Law Society named him Human Rights Lawyer of the Year for his work on the Cambridge Analytica case. 

What’s your earliest memory?

Trying to reach for something, only to be picked up and filled with disappointment. 

Who are your heroes?

I’m in awe of investigative journalists who put themselves at risk to tell the truth. 

What book last changed your thinking?

Peter Pomerantsev’s This is Not Propaganda, which is the best account of disinformation I have read.

Which political figure do you look up to?

I admire how Jacinda Ardern responded to the Christchurch shootings, and respect Tom Watson for successfully challenging the UK’s inadequate protections on the retention of communications data. 

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

Details of Tottenham Hotspur’s run to the Champions League final.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Any time in the past would be worse for ethnic minorities than now, so I would travel to the future to see whether transhumanism becomes a thing. 

What TV show could you not live without?

David Attenborough documentaries, with Parks and Recreation or early seasons of The Simpsons following close behind.

Who would paint your portrait?

Jenny Saville. I saw Reverse and was blown away. Or Tracey Emin, David Shrigley or Jeff Koons – I have quite a comical face and would like to see what they do with it. 

What’s your theme tune?

For work, Jai Paul’s “BTSTU” or Wu Tang Clan’s “Shame on a…” lawyer. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

When I was learning to draft legal documents, my boss wrote “I am a dry and boring lawyer!” on a Post-it Note to remind me that the force of the law is the directness of the language. I still remind myself that my role is not to be colourful with language but to give power to the voiceless. 

What’s currently bugging you?

The pandemic is central to all our lives now. My father is in a care home and the lack of PPE available to those that care for him is troubling. On a wider level,  the world that will emerge from the pandemic occupies most of my thoughts at the moment.

What single thing would make your life better?

A direct phone line to Google. For a company of its size not to have a  public number says a lot about the state of our world. 

When were you happiest?

Our wedding, our honeymoon, or when we went to Battersea to adopt our dog, a retired racing greyhound called Peter.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

It would be a dream to have played trumpet with Grant Green, George Clinton or Herbie Hancock. 

Are we all doomed?

I prefer to be optimistic. We will find pathways out of all our issues and use the lessons learned from a global pandemic to find global solutions to our current climate and technological catastrophes. 

“The Great Hack”, a documentary featuring Ravi Naik, is on Netflix now

This article appears in the 22 April 2020 issue of the New Statesman, The coronavirus timebomb

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