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.
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.
- President: Kevin Welch
- Vice President: Alex Shahrestani
- Secretary: Jon Lebkowsky
- Treasurer: Chris Boyd
Board of Directors
- Heather Barfield, The Vortex
Heather Barfield, Ph.D., has an extensive background in theater history, criticism, theory, and practice. Since 1990, she has been an active performer, director, producer, and writer in the Austin theater community. Barfield has been a vital member of VORTEX Repertory Theatre for 25 years and currently serves as Associate Artistic Director. Her artistic work often incorporates intermodal forms of storytelling through digital and analog methods. In her latest critically-praised production, Privacy Settings: A Promethean Tale (2016), Barfield and her cast of devised theater makers explored the complex topics of whistleblowers, digital privacy, and civil liberties alongside audience-immersive interactions. Dr. Barfield also works steadily in the nonprofit arts management sector as CFO/COO for Austin Creative Alliance. She oversees the financial and budgetary aspects of over ninety sponsored project organizations and collaborates with staff on grant writing, marketing, event planning, and production. Barfield believes that a healthy and just social ecosystem critically depends upon vibrant, eclectic, diverse, reflexive, and innovative arts.
- Chris Boyd, Midas GreenTech
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.
- Joshua Cohn, Risk Assessment Investigator at Facebook
- Ritika Gopal, Associate Counsel at South by Southwest
- 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, Attorney at Shahrestani Law
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 [@thrungaron], Full Stack Developer/Programmer at Various
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
- Anna Kozminski, Software Product Manager, National Instruments
- Adina Levin, VP Products at Socialtext
- Doug Barnes, Attorney at Barnes Legal
- Silona Bonewald
- Jim Butler, Manager, Creative Industries Development, City of Austin Economic Development Dept., Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs
- Smoot Carl-Mitchell, Systems Networking Consultant
- Ed Cavazos [@EdCavazos], Managing Partner, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
- Scott Davis, Netgate / pfSense
- Brian Combs, Founder and CEO, Ionadas Local
- Gene Crick, Executive Director, Telecommunity Resource Center
- Cory Doctorow, Author
- Maggie Duval, The Futures Lab
- Gregory Foster [@gregoryfoster], Computer Geek
- Mike Godwin, Attorney
- Frieda Gress
- Jordan Hatcher, Student, UT-Law
- Warren G. Haines
- Michael Hathaway
- Matt Henry, Attorney, McCollough|Henry, PC
- Steve Jackson, Steve Jackson Games
- Lar Kaufman, Consultant
- Brad King, President, Demon Press
- Donna Kidwell
- Anna Kozminski, National Instruments
- Jeff Kramer, Director of Technology, Director of Data Engineering at Vox Media, Inc.
- Will Kreth, Director – Interactive Content & Customer Experience, Time Warner Cable, Austin
- Sherry Lesikar, Project Manager, State of Texas
- Richard MacKinnon, LESS Networks and Austin Wireless City
- Scott McCollough, Telecommunications Attorney
- Gloria Meraz, Director of Communications, Texas Library Association
- Kathy Mitchell, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition
- David Nunez, MIT Media Lab
- Ken Olthoff, NSA
- Carlos Ovalle, Academic, UT School of Information
- John Quarterman, Quarterman Creations
- Jim Robinson, Director of Operations, Webshots.com
- Mynor Rodriguez, Briefing Attorney – 13th Court of Appeals
- Matt Sanders, Director of Operations, Polycot Consulting L.L.C.
- David Smith
- Bruce Sterling, Author
- Sandy Stone, Independent Arts and Crafts Professional
- Stephen Torrence [@storrence]
- Don Turnbull, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Information, University of Texas
- Rich Vázquez, CISA, CISSP
- Nathan Wilcox, Vox Media
- Randy Zagar, Sr. Systems Administrator, University of Texas at Austin