Stepping down as EFA Chair to take a position with Microsoft

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This is the text of the email I sent to members of Electronic Frontiers Australia on Saturday 26 April (edited slightly for style). I stepped down as Chair and as Board Member at the monthly Board Meeting Sunday 27 April.

G’day all EFA members,

I am writing with some bittersweet news. Due to a new job, I will be stepping down as Chair and as an EFA Board member as of tomorrow’s Board meeting.

I have accepted a 2 year position with Microsoft Research Cambridge UK to begin in September. Accepting this position requires that I step down, both for practical reasons and, most obviously, due to the potential for a conflict of interest as per Section 6.0 of the Board Code of Conduct.

This is truly bittersweet for me as I joined the EFA Board just a couple of years ago and believe that it has already made great strides. I was looking forward to EFA becoming even more relevant to members and Australians more generally.

When I was elected to the EFA Chair position at the end of last year, my primary goals were to put EFA’s governance on a more professional and accountable footing, and to develop EFA’s voice through stronger research and campaigns. With the Board’s help I believe I have managed to achieve the beginnings of both of these goals.

I stewarded the introduction of our four Standing Committees, I have instigated preparatory actions for employee contracts, I have helped the Treasurer put us in a much improved financial position for the Special General Meeting (SGM) (you will be very pleased to see totally balanced books, for which we all owe Treasurer Daemon Singer great thanks), and I have set on track a working group to improve our consultant hiring practices. You will hear more about these at the SGM.

I should note that the recent delays in getting the SGM on track have nothing whatsoever to do with my stepping down. Those delays have been to ensure that the Financial Report showed balanced books, that the consultancy working group was ready, and that all members would have a chance to look over those documents before the SGM. The Board this year has worked extremely cohesively to produce these outcomes. I am stepping down only to avoid the upcoming personal conflict of interest.

With governance on track to improvements I think EFA can now get on with the far more interesting actual advocacy and research work. EFA has already had some good media this year in many television, radio, and newspaper reports. EFA has made some great new contacts, some research plans, and also have some amazing volunteers creating exciting new technology platforms — look out for those soon.

I think the rest of the 20th Anniversary year will really show EFA coming into its own. I’m proud to have served and will, naturally, watch EFA with keen interest and always stay in contact.

I wish the Acting Chair David Cake, and the new Chair and Vice Chair (when elected), and the EFA Board as a whole, luck and courage in EFA’s continuing advocacy for Australians’ digital rights.

Finally, I’d like to say that a change in leadership should ultimately be less important than the members’ own voices. EFA started the Standing Committees this year to engage more members in having a voice both inside and outside of the organisation. EFA is one of the few grassroots individual citizen’s organisations dedicated to advocating for rights across the digital rights issues spectrum. I urge you to embrace the challenge and join one of these standing committees to amplify EFA’s voice.

Until anon,

Sean

Dr Sean Rintel
Chair, Electronic Frontiers Australia