The first week on the job for Nicole Wong, dubbed by many as the US’s first chief privacy officer, has been fairly, well, private. The White House has named Wong, 44, a former top lawyer for Google and Twitter, as the new deputy US chief technology officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. But the appointment came with little fanfare or official communication about her role, even though Wong could have influence far and wide—not only on internet issues, but on foreign policy, trade and human rights. Here’s why.
Wong is serving as a top deputy to the White House’s chief technology officer, Todd Park, according to OSTP spokesman Rick Weiss. Beyond that, Weiss wouldn’t elaborate on what Wong will be doing. He did say, however, that characterizing her simply as a “chief privacy officer” doesn’t fully describe her role.
In the very least, Wong’s appointment appears to be part of an effort by the Obama administration to reassure citizens that their privacy rights will be protected. The White House has been under the gun about the government’s role in data mining and surveillance, thanks in part to controversy over its PRISM spying program. “The fact that this position exists reflects the importance we attach to the issue,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters last week. “I would point you to everything I just said about the president’s views on the balance that we need to strike between our national security interests and protecting the American people, as well as protecting our values and our privacy.”