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Google's Megan Smith named new US technology chief

Smith, a former vice president at Google X, is heading to Washington to help the Obama administration navigate the terrain at the intersection of tech and government.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin on Megan Smith: "[We] are excited to see what the future holds for her in Washington." Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

Google executive Megan Smith will become the country's new chief technology officer, the White House announced Thursday. President Obama also named Alexander Macgillivray, Twitter's former general counsel, to be her deputy.

Both Smith and Macgillivray are well-respected figures in Silicon Valley. Smith most recently has been a vice president at Google X, the division of the company that develops its most ambitious projects, including driverless cars and Wi-Fi beaming balloons. At Twitter, Macgillivray was known as a champion of free speech for the social network's users.

"Megan has spent her career leading talented teams and taking cutting-edge technology and innovation initiatives from concept to design to deployment," said Obama, in a statement. "I am confident that in her new role as America's Chief Technology Officer, she will put her long record of leadership and exceptional skills to work on behalf of the American people."

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who spends much of his time now on Google X projects, commented on Smith's appointment. "Megan has inspired so many people through her commitment to inclusion and innovation," said Brin, in a statement to CNET. "We'll miss her at Google X and are excited to see what the future holds for her in Washington."

Smith will step into the post as the US navigates increasingly tricky terrain between technology and government. She replaces Todd Park, who spent much of the later part of his tenure addressing problems with the federal government's troubled rollout of

Obama created the CTO position on his first full day in office in 2009, appointing Aneesh Chopra to the post, before Park took over in 2012.

In her new role, Smith will guide the Obama administration in matters of information technology policy, John P. Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology, said in a blog post. Macgillivray will focus on subjects like Internet and intellectual property policy, and the "intersection of big data, technology, and privacy," said Holdren. Macgillivray was also a prominent member of Google's legal team before joining Twitter in 2009.

Prior to her post at Google X, Smith, an MIT mechanical engineering graduate, was a vice president of business development, and also led Google's philanthropic arm, She also helped orchestrate some of the company's most seminal acquisitions, like Maps and Earth, which would become important platforms to Google. Before joining Google, she was CEO for PlanetOut, a site for gay and lesbian Internet users.

"I look forward to working with both of them -- and colleagues across the aministration and beyond -- to continue advancing the President's technology and innovation agenda for the good of the nation," wrote Holdren.