Is a Texas-based, independent nonprofit civil liberties organization concerned with emerging frontiers where technology meets society




As Featured In:

INNOVATE® Austin Volume 2

We are a group of visionary technologists, legal professionals, academics, political activists, artists, and concerned citizens who work to protect digital rights and educate the public about emerging technologies and their implications. Per our mission statement, we advocate 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.

Chris Boyd

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.”

David Hensley

EFF-Austin was formed in Austin, Texas by Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games shortly after the Electronic Frontier Foundation or EFF was formed. Jackson was pursuing a lawsuit, eventually successful, against the Secret Service with EFF’s help, and suggested the formation of an alpha EFF chapter in Austin. Jackson organized a picnic and stood on a picnic table to sound the call for the new organization. He recruited a smaller group including John Quarterman, Jon Lebkowsky, Bruce Sterling, Smoot Carl-Mitchell, Lar Kaufman and Matt Lawrence to organize the group and serve on the first Board of Directors. The group formed a Texas corporation for EFF-Austin, and became active in discussions of potential chapters for the national organization. In January 1992, leaders of several potential chapters met with EFF in Atlanta, and learned that EFF had decided not to become a chapters organization. EFF-Austin continued as a separate organization and was active from 1991 through 1997, when it ceased operations following the Supreme Court Reno v. ACLU decision. The organization re-formed in 2001 and has been active in one form or another ever since.

Josh Cohn

The EFF-Austin bylaws authorize a nine member board, with current membership consisting of Heather Barfield, Chris Boyd, Josh Cohn, Maggie Duval, Ritika Gopal, David Hensley, Jon Lebkowsky, Alex Shahrestani, and Kevin Welch.

Heather Barfield

In recent years, EFF-Austin has been a proud and involved member of EFF’s Electronic Frontier Alliance (EFA), a coalition of over a hundred regional digital civil liberties groups united in their belief in free expression, security, privacy, creativity, and access to knowledge. Our current primary focus consists in community building and education, with monthly meetups held the 2nd Tuesday evening of the month in downtown Austin, Texas at the tech incubator Capital Factory.

Jon Lebkowsky

These meetups are a chance for members of the Austin and Texas digital civil liberties communities to share their knowledge and expertise and meet ideological fellow travelers. In addition to these meetups, EFF-Austin frequently lends its knowledge and expertise to local panel discussions, university classrooms, podcasts, and news outlets. We are also a frequent contributor to Austin’s SXSW festival in the form of panel participants and cyberpunk parties, and have met with and educated State Department delegations when they come to the Austin area.

Kevin Welch

When not engaged in education, EFF-Austin also in nonpartisan political activism, with activities over the last decade ranging from attempting to shepherd electronic privacy legislation through the Texas Legislature as part of the Texas Electronic Privacy Coalition, hosting technology policy political debates with candidates for state office, and organizing a cyborg pride parade. Most recently, we were part of the NoWayOnPropA coalition that helped defeat a ballot proposal in Austin that would have expanded funding for the Austin police department, with our opposition coming from the lack of accountability around police surveillance technology in the Austin area.

Maggie Duval

Like many community groups, EFF-Austin was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and was forced to greatly scale back the scope of our activities. Fortunately, as a group always at the forefront of thinking about new technology, we quickly made the pivot to hosting entirely virtual meetups and have fielded speakers and guests from all around the country over the last two years. Recently, we have begun to resume our in-person meetups and look forward to expanding the scope of our operations again, with our eye currently on preventing the resumption of the Austin Police Department’s Automated License Plate Reader program as a backdoor form of mass surveillance.

Alex Shahrestani

At thirty years old, EFF-Austin already has a long and storied history, and we can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds in store for us. We hope you’ll reach out and join us!

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