San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Legal Director Cindy Cohn will become EFF's new executive director in April, after Executive Director Shari Steele steps down from the post she's held for 14 years.
With more than 20 years at EFF, Steele has been a driving force of the organization since its earliest days. She has overseen the growth of EFF from a handful of staffers to a 60-person organization at the forefront of every major digital rights issue the world faces today. As executive director, she built a superstar team of attorneys, technologists, and advocates, cementing EFF's reputation as one of the most respected and fiercely independent groups working for technology users' rights. During Steele's tenure, EFF's yearly budget went from less than $1 million in 1999 to almost $9 million for the fiscal year 2014-2015, and membership grew from less than 2000 dues-paying members to over 24,000.
"I've spent most of my working life at EFF, and it's hard to imagine leaving this amazing group of people," said Steele. "I'm so incredibly proud of this organization. I will miss everybody terribly as my family relocates to the Seattle area."
"Shari has been the visionary behind EFF's evolution into the critically important institution it is today. She saw the expanding need for this organization and made sure we were always ready to do this work," said EFF Chairman of the Board of Directors Brian Behlendorf. "Cindy has also been instrumental to EFF's successes, and we're pleased she will continue this vitally important work as executive director."
Cohn has been involved with EFF for over 20 years, first working on Bernstein v. Department of Justice, the successful First Amendment challenge to U.S. export restrictions on cryptography. In 2000, Cohn became legal director, and her work included spearheading EFF's groundbreaking lawsuits challenging the NSA's illegal mass surveillance of Americans and people around the world. She has been named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America in addition to numerous other honors.
"I have been so fortunate to have worked with Cindy Cohn for the past 20 years," said Steele. "Cindy is a brilliant lawyer, a charismatic leader, and a moral compass for the organization. I am confident that EFF will continue to thrive under her leadership."
"Cindy is one of the smartest lawyers I've ever known, and a great strategist," said EFF co-founder John Gilmore. "Cindy truly understands what makes EFF successful, and we're thrilled she will lead the organization."
EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry will take over as legal director. McSherry has been at EFF for nearly 10 years, recently testifying to Congress about the problems with the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), arguing in the D.C. Circuit against copyright trolls, and leading EFF's fight for net neutrality. In addition to serving as legal director, McSherry will continue to lead EFF's intellectual property legal team.
EFF Senior Staff Attorney David Greene will become EFF's new civil liberties director. Before joining EFF last year, Greene had been executive director of the First Amendment Project and was a founding member of the Internet Free Expression Alliance.
EFF Deputy General Counsel Kurt Opsahl will become EFF's general counsel, a post formerly held by Cohn, and will also serve as EFF's deputy executive director with duties including being the primary liaison to the Development, Finance, Technology Ops, and Operations teams. Opsahl is EFF's lead attorney on its cases challenging National Security Letters (NSLs) and recently argued against the NSLs' unconstitutional gag provisions in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
"We have big shoes to fill with Shari leaving, but thanks to her and the deep team we've built, we're ready," said Cohn. "I look forward to leading EFF into this next chapter and to helping build the movement for digital rights into a force that speaks for people worldwide."
Steele will remain as EFF's executive director until April of next year. 2015 marks EFF's 25th anniversary.
Media Relations Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation