Senior Legal Counsel, Twitter
After completing the BCL, Chetan Gupta worked for several years in New Delhi, India, in different chambers undertaking a broad mix of litigation and advisory work. Chetan is now based in San Francisco, after having moved there for a position at Baker McKenzie before joining Twitter as Senior Legal Counsel. He specialises in privacy law and has published on the adoption of privacy technologies.
Could you tell us about your journey to Oxford? What was it like studying for the BCL?
Studying at Oxford had been a dream for me for many years, and was something I worked towards throughout law school. I spoke with various people who had read for the BCL to learn about their experience, and they all praised the tutorial system, and the collegial nature of the course. The BCL requires a high degree of academic attainment in your first law degree, so I focused my energies on this, while still engaging with some extracurricular activities such as moot courts. Ultimately, I was fortunate to be admitted to the BCL, and received a full scholarship (the Pathak Scholarship) to fund my studies. The Pathak Scholarship had been instituted by a very generous benefactor at Exeter College, Oxford and meant that I was able to pursue my dream of studying at Oxford! I was the only lawyer to receive the Pathak Scholarship that year.
Reading for the BCL was a challenging and fun experience. Grappling with very long reading lists, scouring medieval libraries at various colleges for elusive books, and producing and defending essays on the tight timelines of the trimester system all contributed to the fun.
What attracted you to a career in Law?
I have always liked reading. Getting paid to read and analyze things sounded like a good gig!
What did you enjoy studying most when studying at Oxford?
A few different things- the intimacy of the tutorial system, the intellectual rigor, the dreaming spires and walking home to the sound of Magdalen’s bells, the opportunity to attend seminars across a wide spectrum of disciplines (I sat in on art history lectures by Martin Kemp for example, and still remember these fondly).
You worked for several years in New Delhi in different chambers and private practice – can you tell us a bit more about those years?
I had the option of joining an international firm in London after graduating from the BCL. But my heart was set on returning to India and trying my hand at litigation. I worked in the chambers of Mr. Harish Salve, former Solicitor General of India, and in the chambers of Mr. Gaurav Pachnanada, Senior Advocate, before launching my own practice with the help of these great mentors. India tends to not be as specialized as other markets, so my practice was a broad mix of litigation and advisory work. Looking back, the exposure I gained through these diverse experiences has served me well. Running my own practice was like running a small start-up, and an appropriate prelude to moving to the San Francisco Bay Area.
You then moved to San Francisco working for Baker McKenzie – how did that come about?
My then girlfriend (now wife J) moved to California for an LLM. I visited her in Berkeley, and thought it would be no great hardship to live in California. I signed up for and passed the California Bar exam and also decided to get a second Masters degree (the BCL being the first) from Berkeley Law. After I graduated, I was fortunate to be offered a position at Baker McKenzie, which welcomed my international experience and background. Baker has offices across the globe and it was a great experience to be able to see how different jurisdictions treated the same questions when I conducted privacy surveys or assessments on behalf of our clients.
You’re now Senior Legal Counsel with Twitter – what does the role involve and what’s it like working for Twitter?
I work in the Office of Data Protection at Twitter. We are charged with protecting the privacy and security of our consumers, which is a role I am proud of. Our remit includes conducting privacy reviews for new products or services, such as leveraging machine learning to analyze platform activity. It also includes engaging with privacy regulators globally. Twitter exists to serve the public conversation, and it’s a privilege to be part of a social network that informs and shapes much of what transpires in the world on a daily basis.
You specialise in privacy law – was that always an interest or did that emerge over time?
I was always interested in constitutional law and human rights, and most of my BCL courses were in this space, including courses on comparative human rights and socio-economic rights. Privacy is emerging as the definitive human right of our time in many ways. At Berkeley, I was fortunate to have Prof. Chris Hoofnagle as a mentor, who is a leading authority in privacy law and technology, and who helped shape my career in this space. While at Berkeley, and under Prof. Hoofnagle’s mentorship, I wrote a paper on the adoption of privacy technologies that won a Privacy Papers for Policymakers Award and that I was able to present to the US Senate. This led me to specialize in privacy at both Baker McKenzie and at Twitter.
What aspects of your degree(s) have proved to be the most useful in your career so far?
I think both Oxford and Berkeley encouraged critical and original thinking. In addition, both offered a chance to hear and explore diverse perspectives on legal issues.
What charities do you support and why?
I try and give back to students in need at both Oxford and Berkeley, as I believe that both institutions greatly expanded my opportunities and horizons.
What advice would you give to your past self as a student?
Don’t be so certain and rigid about what you want to do, and the path you want to take!
Describe your typical or ideal weekend.
A mixture of reading, spending time with my wife and our maltipoo puppy (named Coconut), and cycling the rolling hills of San Francisco.
What non-professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
I once rode 250 km in a little over 8 hours through the desert in Rajasthan, India as part of a cycling race I helped organize.