in memoriam Chris Lightfoot, 1978 – 2007

I am immensely sad to have to report the death of Chris Lightfoot, NO2ID’s system administrator, campaign stalwart and developer par excellence. Chris was found by friends at his flat on 11th February 2007, and his funeral was held last week.

Those of us who knew Chris appreciate how much more than his extraordinary talent for programming he brought to our campaign – and to the other organisations and people with whom he worked. We shall all miss his sharp wit, quick tongue and formidable analytical skills; his wide-ranging, articulate and often highly original contributions; and his passionate commitment to privacy and civil liberties. Chris was a formidable debater and an excellent, amusing and engaging public speaker – but was always happy to muck in with bread-and-butter campaigning tasks like leafletting and manning street stalls.

Chris, more than most, understood how important it is that we should all have the choice of what about ourselves we share with others. His intellectual honesty and keen appreciation of human dignity informed all that he did, and it is no overstatement to say that the whole UK political arena and IT community will suffer by his loss.

His contribution often boiled down to creating something simple that others could, and do, use – or cutting through unnecessary complexity to the heart of the matter. Chris’ analysis of volunteered data most recently allowed NO2ID to demonstrate insecurities in the passport, to which we now hope the authorities will attend. His achievements were often all the more impressive for the speed at which they were delivered; in quick-fire e-mail exchanges, or bursts of coding that convinced many he could type as fast as most normal people can speak.

I’m sure that Chris’s friends and colleagues all agree his work – some of which you may have used without knowing, such as NO2ID’s peer-lobbying tool and TheBigOptOut.org or the mySociety team efforts FaxYourMP (now WriteToThem.com) and PledgeBank.com – will stand as a memorial to his integrity, talent and principles for many years to come.

Rest in peace, Chris.

Phil Booth
National Coordinator, NO2ID

13 thoughts on “in memoriam Chris Lightfoot, 1978 – 2007

  1. Neil Harding says:

    Absolutely shocked – a real shame. This guy knew his stuff – I didn’t agree with him on a few issues but he certainly provided me with a bigger insight in every debate we had – including changing my opinion on the practicalities of the govt’s ID scheme. He seemed a really nice guy, sympathies to his family.

  2. Dave Gould says:

    Chris was already one of the people at NO2ID I wish I knew better. I only met him briefly at the Big Brother awards but knew him best for the significant amount of work he did for our important campaign. I was actually quite inspired by his ability to get things done with a minimum of fuss.

  3. Graham Feakins says:

    Dear All, I have read a number of the comments about the late Chris Lightfoot. I am a Partner in the firm of Chartered Patent Attorneys, of whom his late father, Bob Lightfoot was one time Senior Partner. I therefore knew Oggie from a young age. This fear of Chip & Pin etc. surely must have been passed on to him by his father, who had an absolute obsession, for example, about Direct Debit with the Firm’s Bank, and therefore refused totally to entertain it. If Bob could exchange cash by hand and within sight, then that was the preferred method of payment. This attitude clearly passed to Oggie and he must have developed it to an obsession, perhaps to a lack of trust in everything and everyone. I am very sad to hear of his passing and am glad that the church was full for his funeral. It is difficult to understand why such a person should take his own life, however, especially if he had so much to offer.
    Keep his spirit going! Best wishes,
    Graham Feakins

  4. andrew says:

    Graham – Are you suggesting that Chris’ concerns about Chip and PIN were an irrational obsession? If so, you should read Ross Anderson’s “Chip and Spin” web site (http://www.chipandspin.co.uk/) and relevant posts at the Light Blue Touchpaper blog, such as this one: http://www.lightbluetouchpaper.org/2007/02/08/financial-ombudsman-on-chip-pin-infallibility/

    Chris was always fiercely rational. His concerns about ID cards and Chip and PIN credit cards were both based on reasoned analysis, and certainly not a lack of trust in everything and everyone.

    Many thanks for your good wishes. We certainly do intend to keep his spirt going.

  5. Graham Feakins says:

    Thanks Andy and sorry for the belated reply but you will appreciate I am not a frequent visitor. In fact, it is only because I today received an e-mail from Oggie’s sister that I have returned. No, the obsession was not irrational but could have started from the principle of never trusting something unless proven. You know, our once valued concept of “Innocent until proved guilty” and, therefore, analyse something before trusting it. Oggie’s father did not trust direct debit, having analysed the operation concerned. I am sure that Oggie would have accepted Chip & Pin if he found its operation to be perfect. The website you directed me to clearly show that doubts remain. What to do? Any advice? I have enough trouble contacting my own bank by even telephone, even though I have held my account there since 1975 – for more than 30 years! Luckily, there is a good local pub where I can I have a pint of Fullers London Pride, whilst the bank sorts out my complaint. Please don’t don’t worry – I can comlain as well. Politicians do not seem to get my messages into their heads, though. I am only a subject of The U.K. etc.

    Graham

  6. andrew says:

    Graham wrote: “I am sure that Oggie would have accepted Chip & Pin if he found its operation to be perfect. The website you directed me to clearly show that doubts remain. What to do? Any advice?”

    Yes – get a Chip and Signature card:

    http://www.chipandpin.co.uk/business/card_payments/faqs.html#sinature

    http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/PublicWebsite/public_chipandpin.hcsp

    Your bank may try to tell you C&S credit cards are only for disabled customers, but persist. They can issue a C&S card to anyone. I got one from Nationwide with some persistence.

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