Two new seats on EFF’s board are filled by Erica Astrella and Yoshi Kohno, who bring valuable experience in diversity, equity, inclusion, security research, and data privacy to the table.
On Monday the folks at the non-profit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation announced that they’ve taken on a couple of new board members: Erica Astrella, head of technology at Parkwood Entertainment, and Tadayoshi “Yoshi” Kohno, a University of Washington computer science and engineering professor.
Not mentioned in the press release, but confirmed by Karen Gullo, EFF’s senior media relations specialist, the two were elected unanimously by EFF’s board to fill two new seats.
“Erica and Yoshi are fearless and awe-inspiring pioneers and advocates for the idea that the creation, understanding, and control of technological innovations must not be the domain of a select few, but rather must include and support a diversity of creators, tinkerers, coders, and users,” Cindy Cohn, EFF’s executive director, said in a statement.
Astrella’s Diversity and Equity Activism
Astrella comes to the table not only with technical cred, but with the credentials of a successful activist as well.
On the technical side, her resume includes executive and management positions at Google, Slack, Patreon, Microsoft, and Github. In addition, she spent 22 months as the chief technology officer for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is the official campaign arm of Democrats in the US House of Representatives.
On the activist side, she has a history of being a successful advocate for diversity and equity within the technology industry.
Most notably, in 2015 after leaving Google for Slack, Astrella (then known as Baker, she changed here name in 2021 after her marriage) sent a series of tweets that revealed that while at Google she had started an internal spreadsheet that employees could use to disclose salary information, which led to a number of Google employees being able to negotiate pay raises based on information in the spreadsheet. In addition, it initiated discussion on pay disparities, and potential gender and ethnicity differences in pay within the company. The spreadsheet continued to be updated until 2017, which is when The New York Times published updated data from the spreadsheet, making the information public.
In 2016, she joined forces with software engineer Tracy Chou, philanthropist Freada Kapor Klein, and former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao to co-found Project Include, which provides diversity and inclusion strategies to companies.
“The idea that an entire industry should belong to one or two types of people who then get to be the gatekeepers for that industry is preposterous and ridiculous on its face,” she said in a speech in 2018.
Security Research and Data Privacy
Kohno brings serious security and research chops to the table, and like Astrella, he has a background dealing with diversity and equity issues. EFF calls him “an award-winning scholar who has spent the last 20 years raising awareness about computer security.”
He’s not only been “raising awareness,” he been doing the research necessary to better understand security issues as they arise, in key areas that play into EFF’s mission.
For example, in 2003 Kohno was part of a team that conducted the first academic security analysis of electronic voting machine software, and as a result of that work he became an early client of EFF.
“In 2003 we provided legal advice when he and other security researchers disclosed serious flaws in voting machine software that could make the devices open to fraud,” EFF explained in its press release.
“Our work played a pivotal role in the emerging national discussion of electronic voting security,” Kohno said on his University of Washington website page. “I continued to work in electronic voting security until 2006, including co-chairing the USENIX/ACCURATE Electronic Voting Technology Workshop in 2008. I also testified before the U.S. House of Representatives, on the topic of electronic voting security.”
Other areas of digital security and privacy expertise that are pertinent to his newfound place on EFF’s board include wireless medical devices, automotive computers, smart home technologies, web tracking, and others.
In addition, Kohno shares Astrella’s interest in diversity, and is the associate director for diversity, equity, inclusion, and access at the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering.
“They each bring a keen technical understanding, along with invaluable talent, a strong ethical grounding, and insights that will inform and help steer EFF’s mission to ensure that technology supports freedom, justice, and innovation for all the people of the world,” EFF’s Cohn said.