SAN FRANCISCO—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is honored to announce today that Erica Astrella, Head of Technology at Parkwood Entertainment and a leading voice for diversity and equity in tech, and University of Washington Computer Science & Engineering Professor Tadayoshi “Yoshi” Kohno, a renowned security researcher and scholar, have joined EFF’s Board of Directors.
Astrella—a software engineer and tech executive who has worked at Google, Slack, Patreon, Microsoft, and Github, as well as serving as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Chief Technology Officer—has challenged inequity in hiring and compensation in the tech industry and is a prominent and influential advocate for women and people of color in Silicon Valley.
Kohno’s research focuses on identifying and fixing security flaws in existing and emerging technologies, and developing solutions to those risks before they endanger users and vulnerable populations. He has studied and raised awareness about security and privacy threats facing refugees in the U.S., activists in the Sudanese revolution, and medical device patients, among other understudied groups.
“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,” said EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn. “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.”
Astrella’s commitment to advancing equity and inclusion in tech first garnered headlines when she started an internal spreadsheet for Google employees to post their salary information, revealing that female employees were paid less than male staff members in most positions. The spreadsheet was leaked to the New York Times, and heightened the conversation about gender inequity in tech.
Astrella, along with venture capitalist and former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, venture capitalist and philanthropist Freada Kapor Klein, and software engineer Tracy Chou, founded Project Include, a nonprofit that works with companies to bring inclusion and diversity in the workplace.
“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,” Astrella said in a 2018 speech.
Astrella has been on the advisory boards for Atipica and Hack the Hood, the Code.org Diversity Council, the Barbie Global Advisory Board, and has been a tech mentor for Black Girls Code. Astrella is currently Head of Technology at Parkwood Entertainment.
Kohno is an award-winning scholar who has spent the last 20 years raising awareness about computer security. His work has revealed flaws in technologies that touch the lives of everyday people and vulnerable groups.
Kohno and fellow researchers this year formulated a framework for assessing how targeted data collection can reduce racial and gender bias in facial recognition systems. Kohno and colleagues also showed how TikTok users openly discussed and advised on using tracking apps and Apple AirTags to spy on and control intimate partners and children. Kohno was 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.
Kohno says his career was shaped in part by technology pioneer and teacher Evi Nemeth, who as one of his undergraduate advisors spoke admiringly about EFF. Nemeth, who in 2013 was lost at sea, would be “super excited and proud” that he has joined the EFF board, Kohno said. “I would like to honor Evi and my memory of her with whatever I do for the board.”