Mission Statement

EFF-Austin advocates establishment and protection of digital rights and defense of the wealth of digital information, innovation, and technology. We promote the right of all citizens to communicate and share information without unreasonable constraint. We also advocate the fundamental right to explore, tinker, create, and innovate along the frontier of emerging technologies.

Who We Are

EFF-Austin is an independent nonprofit civil liberties organization concerned with emerging frontiers where technology meets society. We are a group of visionary technologists, legal professionals, academics, political activists and concerned citizens who work to protect digital rights and educate the public about emerging technologies and their implications.

Similar to our namesake, the national Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), “the dominion we defend is the vast wealth of digital information, innovation, and technology that resides online.”

EFF-Austin was originally formed in 1991 with the intention that it would become the first chapter of the national Electronic Frontier Foundation. However, EFF decided not to become a chapters organization, and EFF-Austin became a separately-incorporated, independent nonprofit organization focusing on cyber liberties, digital rights, and emerging technologies.

An audio history of EFF-Austin (and why we’re not formally connected to the national EFF) is available here.

Website: EFF-Austin
Email: info@effaustin.org

Leadership

  • President: Kevin Welch
  • Vice President: Alex Shahrestani
  • Secretary: Jon Lebkowsky
  • Treasurer: Chris Boyd

Board of Directors

Heather Barfield has an extensive background in theater history, criticism, theory, and practice. She received her Ph.D. in Performance as Public Practice from the University of Texas at Austin. She also holds a M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and a B.A. in Anthropology from UT Austin. Throughout her career, she has worked as performer, scholar, director, producer, writer, archivist, and arts administrator in the Austin, Texas theater and cultural communities.

Her artistic work often incorporates intermodal forms of storytelling through digital and analog methods. In her critically-praised production, Privacy Settings: A Promethean Tale (2016), Barfield and her cast of devised-theater makers explored the complex topics of whistle-blowers, digital privacy, and civil liberties alongside audience-immersive interactions.

She is currently Professor (Adjunct) of performance and theatre history/criticism at Austin Community College, Drama Department.

She continues to devise, write, produce and direct video and performance installation works as an artist-citizen-scholar. Barfield recognizes that a healthy and just social ecosystem depends upon vibrant, eclectic, diverse, reflexive, and innovative arts.

Barfield volunteers as a board member for Electronic Frontier Foundation-Austin, Alliance Française d’Austin, and is Board Chair of Canopy Theatre.

Chris Boyd is the treasurer of EFF-Austin. Chris has more than 25 years of experience in telecommunications, data networking, and ISP operations. His in-depth knowledge and practical experience provide insight into advanced technologies that affect EFF-Austin policy discussions.

Chris also brings an entrepreneurial background to the organization, having worked extensively with several large communications companies, and his own startups, to assist in product definitions, operational integration, and service delivery and management. His extensive understanding of various communications technologies, networking requirements, and cloud scale services allows him to explain new products and services, and how they affect the public.

Chris has worked for and consulted to MCI, Worldcom, Cox Enterprises, Mediacom Communications, Insight Communications, Suddenlink Communications, and Verizon. His previous companies include an innovative, vertically integrated managed services, hosting and colocation company that provided complete IT services to the SMB market – multimedia cabling, wired/wireless LAN, WAN and VPN implementation, VoIP, network management, remote backup, server and desktop support to the SMB market. Chris co-founded and worked as CTO of Midas Green Technology, which is developing a next generation immersion cooling system for high density data centers. Chris co-founded and worked as CTO of CH3 Data which is the only immersion cooling datacenter using immersion cooling in a live datacenter. CH3 is a spinoff from Midas Green Technologies, and provides cloud services – Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), VPS, managed VPS, hosting, and colocation services, focusing on providing services to web development, marketing and startup web services companies.

Chris holds a BA in General Studies, University of Texas at Dallas, Management and Computer Science. Chris also has a patent – US Patent 6,633,562 “Method and apparatus using enhanced attachment for improved connectivity in telecommunications” for work done at the MCI Developers Lab. The patent describes a method for automatically configuring voice devices operating over a packet switched network. Chris also has several domestic and international patent applications in progress for enhanced immersion cooling systems for data centers.

Josh Cohn is a veteran of the political and tech worlds, focusing on policy and risk in the industries. He lives in Austin where he spends his time listening to live music and recovering from sunburns.

Maggie Duval is a technology, web, marketing, strategy and development consultant, educator and event producer whose work supports holistic, personalized approaches to learning. She is an expert in creating, curating, and producing unique, immersive workshops and conferences where business, technology and arts dialogue in innovative ways. Her work includes research, development, creation and production of multimedia, participative learning approaches and projects for experiential education such as the SXSW-related events, Plutopia (The Future of Play, The Science of Music, Living Systems) and Cyberpunk 2014: A Retrospective, as well as The Spectral Panopticon, Showdown at Unobtainium: Tesla vs. Edison, STEAM3: The Future of Experiential Learning, and NextECon. Maggie brings her multidimensional vision and expertise in both virtual (website and user interface) and physical (events, workshops, happenings) experiential design. A gifted connector, she also serves to foster collaborative alliances between the Austin community, and beyond.

Ritika Gopal is an early-career legal professional based out of Austin, TX. She specializes in transactional, IP, and privacy law. Past work experience includes stints at the Wikimedia Foundation, The Walt Disney Company, and most recently, SXSW. She is deeply fascinated by the uncharted growth of IP, privacy, and free speech law in the context of emerging technologies and online communication. Additionally, she is interested in budding tech policy issues—particularly those stemming from managing online communities. For fun, she likes to dabble in film photography.

  • Mike Gagne, Global Escalations Manager, Community Operations at Facebook

Jon Lebkowsky is the co-founder and former president of EFF-Austin and currently serves as EFF-Austin’s secretary. He has been managing technology projects and companies for over 25 years. He has been co-founder and CEO of three companies, and has been CEO of Polycot Associates (which was recently transformed into a worker-owned web development cooperative) for ten years, and before that, its precursor Polycot Consulting for six years. He is currently focused on strategic digital consulting and development, as well as business vision and management. He is also known as an activist and writer/blogger focused on the future of the Internet, digital culture, cyber liberties, media, and society.

Alex Shahrestani holds a JD from the University of Texas School of Law, with a background in computer science. His interest in technology and the law probably really began when he watched the Matrix, but further developed when – trying to decide on a college major – he recognized the potential of technology to disrupt legal precedent as well as the legal services industry. Alex’s philosophy is to leave the world a little bit more like the one he’d have liked to have for himself. To that end, he has served on several nonprofit boards, launched a startup, counseled startups on business strategies, worked for the state senate, founded the Journal of Law and Technology at Texas, assists SXSW with their legal education conference, performed well over a thousand hours of pro bono work, initiated several pro bono programs, automated legal work for the public benefit, and learned how to play guitar so no one would have to hear him sing instead. His focus with EFF Austin is on policy, education, and community building. Alex wears many hats, and his professional one can be found at ShahrestaniLaw.com.

Kevin Welch is the president of EFF-Austin, a digital rights organization that was founded alongside the Electronic Frontier Foundation and continues to be a member of their Electronic Frontier Alliance. At EFF-Austin, he leads their push to educate the public and politicians about the important digital civil liberties issues of our times. He is a Caltech graduate with degrees in Bioengineering and English. The focus of his studies involved implementing chemical computers via DNA logic gates and circuits and a senior thesis on Tech Noir films. His professional career has consisted of a number of software-related positions ranging from programming the math in slot machine games to full-stack web programming of advanced word-processing/legal software. He is an Austin native, an activist, a hacker, a cyberpunk, a writer of science fiction, mythology, and poetry, an analog synthesizer enthusiast, as well as an indie video game developer. He believes the future doesn’t have to suck, and can even be fun.

Board of Advisors