Laura Bliss is CityLab’s west coast bureau chief, covering transportation and technology. She also authors MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Los Angeles magazine, and beyond.
The agency hopes a new satellite office will strengthen its relationship with the tech industry.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced plans to open a satellite office in Silicon Valley, where it hopes to recruit top-tier tech talent and build relationships within the industry.
DHS secretary Jeh Johnson told attendees of San Francisco's RSA Conference, the world’s largest cybersecurity conference, that he hopes “to convince some of the talented workforce here in Silicon Valley to come to Washington,” according to Fusion. Tech specialists, he said, should “consider a tour of service for your country.”
As the Washington Post points out, DHS' new stake-out also reflects an attitude that Edward Snowden acolytes won't feel comfortable with:
The Obama administration’s growing opposition to highly advanced encryption methods that prevent both hackers and law-enforcement from accessing private records.
“Our inability to access encrypted information poses public safety challenges,” the secretary said. “In fact, encryption is making it harder for your government to find criminal activity, and potential terrorist activity.”
Technologists who join government forces could help find balance between the “basic, physical security of the American people and the liberties and freedoms we cherish as Americans,” Johnson said.
But tech workers might not see it that way. The industry is still working to bolster public trust around internet privacy since Snowden's revelations. Will companies view the DHS offices as an olive branch or as a warning? And then there's Silicon Valley's famous strain of hardcore libertarianism—it's hard to imagine the Thiel-ians and Bezos-ites jumping to join an über-watchful government.
Then again, some of the Valley's finest have already made the move to the public sector. Fusion reports:
Just a few weeks ago, the White House named its first-ever Director of Information Technology — former Facebook engineering director David Recordon — and several other high-profile tech executives have made the move into government. Last August, Mickey Dickerson, a former Google engineer, was tapped to lead the U.S. Digital Service, a newly created federal project tasked with “redesigning public services,” using the kind of intuitive technology that Americans are used to getting from private industry.
Looks like Big Brother's only getting bigger.
Top image: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith