White House names two ex-Googlers to top technology posts

The Obama Administration on Thursday announced it is naming Megan Smith (pictured above), an engineer who oversees Google X “moonshot” projects, as its new chief technology officer, while naming Alex MacGillivray, a former lawyer for Google and Twitter as her deputy.

Smith will replace outgoing CTO Todd Park, who will continue to serve the White House from Silicon Valley, and who is best known for helping to repair the disastrous launch of the HealthCare.gov site.

The arrival of Smith and MacGillivray, both of whom are very highly regarded in Silicon Valley, suggests the Obama Administration remains committed to revamping the federal government’s benighted IT system, while addressing a growing host of tech-related privacy and free speech issues.

Smith is an MIT-trained engineer who has worked on projects like “Project Loon,” which aims to put deliver blimp-based internet service and helped develop familiar services like Google Earth and Google Maps.

MacGillivray is known for helping to guide the Google Books litigation, and for fierce advocacy of free speech while serving as general counsel at Twitter.

News of the appointments was met with widespread approval on Twitter by many in Silicon Valley and the legal community.

While there is little doubt that Smith and MacGillivray have the technical and policy chops for the top positions, it remains to be seen if they will possess the political skills to budge the federal bureaucracy, and to gain the ear of the White House.