Obama appoints tech veterans from Microsoft and Uber to cybersecurity commission

President Obama has just released the list of appointees to the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity — and it’s more or less what you’d expect: higher-ups from the big players in tech, plus some academics and the former director of the NSA. Wait, what?

Yes, General Keith Alexander (Retired), who headed the NSA during the enormous expansion of its surveillance apparatus — pointed, of course, at you — is the first listed member of the commission. On the one hand, better the devil you know, and what a resumé. On the other, wow.

The rest of the members are as follows, with their primary or most recent affiliation listed:

  • Annie I. Antón, Chair of the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Ajay Banga, president and CEO of MasterCard
  • Steven Chabinsky, Chief Risk Officer and General Counsel to CrowdStrike
  • Patrick Gallagher, Chancellor and CEO of the University of Pittsburgh
  • Peter Lee, CVP of Microsoft Research (and former director of a DARPA initiative)
  • Herbert Lin, cyber policy and security researcher at Stanford
  • Heather Murren, investor and Board of Trustees member at Johns Hopkins University
  • Joe Sullivan, chief security officer at Uber (and previously at Facebook)
  • Maggie Wilderotter, longtime (but former) CEO of Frontier Communications

So what does this commission do, exactly? It’s part of Obama’s larger overhaul of government tech policy, the Cybersecurity National Action Plan, announced earlier this year. In fact, it’s the first highlight on the administration’s summary of CNAP.

The commission is advisory only, making both short- and long-term recommendations on cybersecurity, public safety, privacy and partnerships between the various appendages of the government.

Ironically, the members were announced on the same day a bill was proposed that, if this commission is worth its salt, will be the subject of their very first recommendation. That is to say, to bury that bill so deep that they’ll need ultrasonic locators like they used at the beginning of Jurassic Park to find it again. Actually, that probably won’t be necessary (the bill is a dud), but it sure would be nice to watch.

The specific details on exactly what the commission will be doing are here. If all goes according to plan, a final report will be due to the president by December 1 of this year, leaving him just enough time to not implement it. I kid, but really, no sweeping reforms were likely at any time during this acrimonious election season, so this gives them time to do real research and, probably, establish their own sub-commissions.

Periodic public meetings are also part of the plan, so keep an eye out for those — you wouldn’t want to miss a chance to make your voice heard, would you?