The Defense Department has awarded a first of its kind joint enterprise licensing agreement for Microsoft collaboration, mobility, productivity and security tools. Valued at $617 million, the three-year agreement will allow the Army, Air Force and the Defense Information Systems Agency to begin using the latest versions of the company’s products.

The agreement creates a single framework providing all three organizations with a single, standardized way to access new Microsoft technologies. The contract also supports top DOD IT goals for data center consolidation, collaboration, cybersecurity, mobility, cloud computing and big data, company officials said in a statement. Keep reading →

The Veterans Affairs Department’s move to a cloud-based email system for its employees is nothing if not meticulous. When fully rolled out, in 2014, the new platform will give about 400,000 VA users — and eventually up to 600,000 — an array of collaborative tools and eventually yield tens of millions of dollars in savings on IT infrastructure for the department, VA officials expect.

But for the near term, in a carefully planned first phase, the department plans to migrate 15,000 users to Microsoft 365 for Government within a separate community cloud, by the end of March, said Charles De Sanno, VA’s executive director of enterprise systems engineering. Keep reading →

Cisco Chairman and Chief Executive John Chambers is expected to announce plans today for transitioning the networking giant into a company focused primarily on supplying data analysis systems and services to government and large businesses.

“The days of the boxes are over,” said Chambers in a just-published interview with The New York Times.

Cisco has successfully navigated numerous technology transitions with a steady strategy of acquisitions that have helped expand Cisco’s digital presence well beyond the router boxes that keep Internet traffic flowing.

Chambers, however, said that the global revolution in mobile devices and sensors, and the routing of massive volumes of data to centralized processing centers, is altering the landscape and the economic equations for leading technology companies, such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Oracle, as well as for Cisco.

“Transitions are happening at a faster pace than ever before,” he told The New York Times.

Chambers has been a relentless champion for helping large organizations harness information technology to work more effectively, including his own.

But the commoditization and consumerization of IT has put pressure on Cisco to reorganize for the next wave of technology demands. Chambers is betting much of that demand will come from finding smarter ways of capturing and analyzing the data that rides on much of the equipment Cisco originally produced and installed.

As part of that strategy, Cisco is reorganizing with the goal of concentrating on helping government and large businesses handle projects such as designing and managing systems to handle traffic or clean water across entire cities more efficiently.

He also layed out a vision for working with government officials and civil engineering companies to create networks of sensors and data analysis systems that would help organizations set up more efficient mining, manufacturing and distribution systems.

How successful Cisco will be in shifting to a software-driven business model remains more than a casual question in light of the turmoil that IBM endured, and more recently HP continues to face following its $11 billion purchase of Autonomy.

Chambers responds to those and other concerns in the article, saying Cisco’s talent, product and corporate connections give them closer access to the needs of their customers. Read the original article here. Keep reading →

Last fall, Oregon became the first state in the nation to utilize tablet technology in elections. Now in the state’s latest technology move, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown has arranged to provide Samsung Series 7 PC tablets, featuring the Windows 8 operating system, to be used by Oregon voters with disabilities in Tuesday’s general election.

“Specifically, in this pilot project, Oregon voters with disabilities will be encouraged to test their own accessibility devices with the brand-new technology that should increase the use and confidence in our accessible voting system,” said Secretary Brown. Keep reading →

This week, millions of voters will confront not only the decision of who to vote for, but also the more mundane questions of where and when to vote, whether they need to bring identification, and who or what exactly will be on the ballot.

Despite the march of technology that makes that information available online to more and more people, finding the correct information for a given voting district has been a continuing challenge for veteran and prospective voters alike, as well as state and local election officials. Keep reading →

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has contracted with Lockheed Martin and Microsoft to migrate the email and collaboration systems supporting approximately 25,000 employees to Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 system, according to a joint announcement released by Lockheed Martin and Microsoft today.

The collaboration and communication service is expected to improve EPA employees’ access to communications and mobility tools and result in expected savings of $12 million over the four-year contract period. Keep reading →

Some companies, famously, have game rooms for employees. Most organizations require that their employees abstain from gaming while at work, and some go so far as to block not only gaming Websites, but many social sites as well.

When employees bring their own smartphones to work, however, and when they connect to the internet using their own networks, employers cannot simply block a site on their own server and think they’ve solved the problem of distracting technology. Keep reading →

For those who follow government computing trends, the biggest story of 2012 in the U.S. has been the accelerating adoption of cloud services by federal agencies as well as by state and local governments. This growth has been fostered in large part by the admirably proactive stance in favor of cloud taken by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

It has also been propelled by the FedRAMP program, which streamlines the procedures used to vet the security features of commercial cloud solutions. At SafeGov we enthusiastically endorse this trend and look forward to the cost savings and improvements in citizen services it will bring to all levels of government.

This article originally appeared on and is republished by permission. For more news and insights on innovations at work in government, please sign up for the AOL Gov newsletter. For the quickest updates, like us on Facebook.

But while U.S. government use of cloud services surges, U.S. regulators have paid relatively little attention to the emerging issue of data confidentiality in the cloud. The focus of Federal cloud standardization efforts such as the NIST requirements built into FedRAMP has been data security, not privacy and confidentiality.

In Europe, however, the picture looks very different. The European public sector is approaching the cloud with caution: governments are keenly interested in the potential benefits, but have not yet issued the kind of top-down mandate for rapid migration that we’ve seen in the U.S.

At the same time, European regulators are much further along the path toward a modernized regulatory regime for cloud computing. The key development looming on the horizon in Europe is the proposed new EU Data Protection Regulation. This draft legislation represents a sweeping revision of the 1995 EU Privacy Directive and is currently the subject of intense scrutiny by interested stakeholders.

Observers expect it to be passed by the EU Parliament sometime in early 2014. In the short term, the most significant event is the investigation of Google’s privacy policy that the French Data Protection Authority – the CNIL – is conducting at the request of the Article 29 Working Party (the association of European DPAs).

Before we assess the impact of European privacy regulations on government cloud computing, let’s take a step back to review the recent debate over online privacy in the U.S. As visitors to this forum may know, SafeGov contributors were among the first to identify the mismatch between the privacy policies of giant web advertising companies like Google and the requirements of safe cloud computing in a government or educational environment.

Recall that the new Google privacy policy introduced in March of this year allows the Mountain View, Calif., firm to combine all of the vast knowledge it gleans from tracking a user’s activity across its many web services (Gmail, Docs, Search, YouTube, DoubleClick, etc.) into a single “master profile.” This profile can then be intensively data mined to select the most profitable ads to serve to that user.

Scaled up to tens and even hundreds of millions of users, this profiling technique yields an extraordinarily profitable business model that has made Google the most successful advertising firm in history.

Google, by the way, is not the only web firm to use this model. Facebook does essentially the same thing, although it has less raw data about users’ behavior outside of its own site. Even Microsoft has recently adopted a unified privacy policy for its consumer services However, a critical difference between the Google and Microsoft policies is the fact that Microsoft, unlike Google, has a specific privacy policy for enterprise and government users.

Privacy advocates on both sides of the Atlantic have objected to Google’s business model on the grounds that web users are not informed that they are being tracked in this manner and are not given an obvious opportunity to opt out. We also note that the European DPAs asked Google to delay implementation of the policy until it could be investigated, but Google declined.

SafeGov itself does not take a position on business models deployed by consumer advertising firms. We recognize that opinions on this difficult and sensitive question will differ. Web advertising (which does not necessarily require hidden user tracking) can be a healthy form of technological innovation that offers significant benefits to consumers.

However, our contributing experts have pointed out on many occasions that the kind of stealthy user profiling and systematic data mining of user content that has become the norm on the consumer web is absolutely unacceptable when performed in cloud services provided under contract to governments or schools.

I believe that our experts who have spoken out on this issue are on solid ground. Imagine for example that a cloud provider decided to apply the same data mining algorithms it uses for consumer ad targeting to the email traffic of tens or hundreds of thousands of government users or school children.

Even if no personal information of individual users was disclosed to advertisers, the power of these algorithms to identify trending topics and keywords in user content could be of immense economic value. In the case of sensitive government information, it could also represent a grave threat to the security of nations. It is for these reasons that SafeGov has called on all cloud service providers to create separate privacy policies for public sector users that expressly ban these practices.

Now what of the European regulators? As noted above, the French DPA – the CNIL – was assigned the task last February of investigating Google’s new privacy policy in order to determine whether it complies with existing European data protection rules. The CNIL is expected to present its initial findings on the Google policy to its European peers sometime in the coming days.

It is important to understand that although the CNIL is a French institution, it is not acting on behalf of the French government, but on that of the association of European DPAs (the Article 29 Working Party). These DPAs are national regulatory bodies whose members are appointed by their national governments, but which operate as independent authorities (in much the same way that the FTC and the FCC do in the U.S.). Their mandate is to enforce European and national laws concerning data protection and online privacy.

While nothing has yet leaked to the press regarding the CNIL’s findings (the contrast on this point with the American FTC is noteworthy), past statements of the CNIL and the Article 29 Working Party allow us to anticipate the likely direction the regulator will take.

First, it is highly probable that the CNIL will find that Google’s privacy policy indeed does not fully comply with European law. This much was already implied in the statements of Article 29 Working Party Chairman Jacob Kohnstamm last February and by the decision to entrust an investigation to the CNIL.

Second, it is unlikely that the CNIL will adopt a punitive stance toward Google, for example by imposing a fine. European law gives the DPAs the power to fine companies that violate the rules, and several DPAs (including the CNIL) have already inflicted fines on Google for that firm’s conduct in the so-called Wi-Spy scandal. But in this case it is more likely that the CNIL and the other DPAs will politely ask Google to change its privacy policy in ways that make it compatible with European laws.

What changes might the Europeans seek in Google’s privacy policy? Any answer to this question before the release of the CNIL’s report is of course purely speculative. Certainly we can expect the regulator to require that Google do more to disclose to users the extent of its data gathering and to offer them more explicit opportunities to opt out.

In recent months many web sites in Europe have begun to implement the new EU cookie rules that require increased disclosure and express consent prior to the serving of web cookies to user browsers. We might expect similar requirements to be imposed on Google and its web advertising peers (Facebook, Yahoo, Hotmail and Bing, etc.).

But at SafeGov our mission is government computing. We don’t know at this point whether the CNIL will express an opinion on the suitability of Google’s privacy policy for cloud services delivered to government customers. We note optimistically that the CNIL asked Google whether its new privacy policy applied to users of Google Apps for Education and Google Apps for Business (of which Google Apps for Government is a derivative. See Question 47 in the CNIL’s second questionnaire addressed to Google).

However, the regulator may prefer to focus its initial report on a broad outline of the changes it wishes to see in Google’s privacy policy, rather than drilling down to issues that confront specific sectors such as government or education.

In any case, observers can be confident that the debate on the topic of the confidentiality and safety of government data in the cloud is only just beginning.

The CNIL’s findings on behalf of the Article 29 Working Party, whatever they are, will be only the first step in a long road. As Europe prepares a fundamental revision of its data protection and online privacy law, that road will ultimately lead to significant changes in the privacy practices and perhaps even in the business models of all web advertising firms that wish to do business in Europe.

These changes will inevitably encompass the rules that govern the cloud services provided to European governments and schools.

We hope that Europe’s Data Protection Authorities will recognize the need for dedicated privacy policies that guarantee users in these critical sectors of the European economy protection from the user profiling and data mining practices of the online consumer advertising industry.

Jeff Gould is CEO and Director of Research, Peerstone Research, and a regular contributor to, a forum for IT providers and industry experts dedicated to promoting trusted and responsible cloud computing. Keep reading →

Randy Siegel,a mobile computing executive who has worked with the federal government’s civilian, defense and intelligence agencies on mobile strategies and applications for more than a dozen years, has joined Breaking Gov’s Board of Contributors.

Siegel, who until last month, served as the director of mission critical mobility initiatives at Motorola Solutions, was just named Senior Vice President of U.S. Federal Government sales and strategy for Fixmo, a startup backed by Kleiner Perkins, Motorola Ventures, and other venture capital firms. Fixmo’s mobile risk management technology has been developed as part of a Co-operative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. National Security Agency. Keep reading →

Ryan Panchadsaram was selected as a Presidential Innovation Fellow for the Blue Button program as part of the new White House Presidential Innovation Fellows program. The program pairs top innovators from the private sector, nonprofits, and academia with top innovators in government to collaborate on solutions that aim to deliver significant results in six months.

The Blue Button program is aimed at providing easy access to health records by enabling individuals to securely download their own health information via a simple text file, such as current medications and drug allergies, claims and treatment data, and lab reports. The Department of Veterans Affairs – working with the Department of Health & Human Services, the Department of Defense, and others – are collaborating on the project.


This is one in a series introducing 18 Fellows working on five initiatives that are part of the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows program.


Panchadsaram was most recently the head of Customer & Product at, a spin-off from MIT Media Lab, using big data to transform health. Keep reading →

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